Bramnick and Greenwald Clash over Apportionment Commission Legislation

 

Greenwald
Greenwald

In the face of power grab characterizations by a skeptical public, Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6) this morning strove to convey the legislative leadership’s apportionment resolution – otherwise known as ACR205 – as a people power-friendly measure.

“If this formula was used in any state you would see a reflection of the voters’ will,” prime sponsor Greenwald told the Assembly Judiciary Committee at an informational hearing.

Widely derided as a way of giving Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) more political muscle and giving Democrats an unfair advantage, the proposed constitutional amendment would increase the membership of the Legislative Apportionment Commission and impose certain requirements on the process and composition of the districts established by the commission for the New Jersey Legislature.

This constitutional amendment would increase the number of members of the commission from 10 to 13 members.  Currently, the chairs of the State Committees of the two major political parties each appoint five members to the commission, and an 11th independent member is appointed by the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court if the commission cannot complete its work.  The constitutional amendment would require the chairs of both State Committees to each appoint two members to the commission. At least one of each of those appointments will be a member of the public. Greenwald noted that this would result in at least two members of the public serving on the commission.

The amendment would also require the four legislative leaders from both major political parties to each appoint two members. At least one of each of those appointments will be a member of the Legislature, providing that at least four members of the Legislature will serve on the commission.  The legislative leaders are the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey would appoint the 13th member at the beginning of the process.  Members would be appointed with due consideration to geographic, ethnic, gender, and racial diversity, and governmental affairs agents would not be permitted to serve on the commission.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) countered Greenwald’s argument.

“Let’s talk about what the newspapers have said,” said Bramnick. “The so-called competitive districts favor Democrats.

He cited this clause:

  1. The Commission shall only certify a plan to establish legislative districts that enhances competitiveness by ensuring that at least 25 percent of all districts are more favorable to either major political party by no more than five percentage points of the average Statewide percentage of the combined two-major-party votes received in all Statewide general elections by that party over the preceding decade for the offices of United States President, United States Senator, and Governor. For each such district included in the foregoing in which the percentage of the combined two-major-party votes for a major political party exceeds that party’s percentage of the combined two-major-party votes in those Statewide elections, there shall be a corresponding district in which that party’s percentage of the combined two-major-party votes is less than the other major party’s percentage of the combined two-major-party votes in the Statewide elections by approximately the same percentage. A major political party’s percentage of the combined two-major-party votes shall be calculated by dividing the number of votes received by that political party by the combined total number of votes received by the two major political parties.

“We want a state where voters choose who their representatives are,” he added.

Voting patterns for a decade reflect Democratic gains.

“If you incorporate the last ten years then you have districts that somewhat favor Democrats,” Bramnick said. “I come from a different position. Those competitive districts should start off equally. …This process is making the map less competitive.”

 

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