ICYMI: Massive Opposition to Democrats’ Rushed Redistricting Scheme
Numerous organizations have voiced their adamant displeasure with the latest scheme (ACR-188) proposed by Democrats to delay the legislative redistricting process through a rushed constitutional amendment. They have warned that the proposed constitutional amendment would disenfranchise voters and delay by years the opportunity for growing minority communities to be fairly represented.
The following is a roundup of statements and testimony by nonpartisan election experts, academics, journalists, and representatives from a variety of good-government organizations spanning the political spectrum that have opposed the legislation.
Here’s what they’re saying…
“Today’s bill is not in the best interest of the people of New Jersey generally, and its people of color in particular. We oppose the proposed bill today because it will exacerbate the cracks of structural racism in our foundation by using the existing, outdated legislative maps, which do not include the substantial growth of people of color in New Jersey since 2010, thereby diluting the political strength, influence, and power to which people of color are entitled based on their composition of New Jersey’s population as it exists right now. This Legislature has had almost three months to work on a solution, and despite requests from advocates and the significant public interest about this issue, these discussions have been in backrooms. But instead of holding public hearings and discussions during this time, members of the Legislature have waited to the last minute to introduce and fast track a problematic constitutional amendment. This is not how democracy should work. …turning to the substance of the bill, the 2011 legislative map is no longer representative of New Jersey. This bill, unfortunately, ignores the interests of communities of color in a manner that may violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Finally, this bill inappropriately seeks to make a permanent change to our redistricting process. Today’s bill does not serve the interests of communities of color now, and will undermine those communities in the future. For these reasons, we oppose this bill. We urge you not to pass it.” Henal Patel, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; Rev. Eric Dobson, Deputy Director, Fair Share Housing Center; Richard T. Smith, President, NAACP New Jersey State Conference; Rev. Dr. Charles F. Boyer, Executive Director, Salvation and Social Justice; and Elise Boddie, Founder, The Inclusion Project, Rutgers Law School
“This proposal would delay the implementation of the new voting district map, one that would more accurately reflect New Jersey’s demographic and population shifts for 2 entire years any time data comes in after February 15th and we believe that is a very far-reaching permanent solution to address a very specific problem that has come up as a result of this unprecedented pandemic. We believe that we can identify other solutions in the future that don’t compromise the fair equal representation that is afforded to all of us under our Constitution.” New Jersey League of Women Voters
“First, the trigger date we feel is too early and the permanence of the amendment is likely unneeded and second delaying redistricting will likely create representational harm for Asian and Latino communities both of which have grown in size since 2010 according to American Community Survey. …by delaying redistricting or at least elections under new district maps until 2023, these communities will likely suffer representational harm for an extra two years.” Princeton Gerrymandering Project
“Its clear action needs to be taken due to the new information regarding the data, we will receive the new population counts derived from the 2020 Census, it’s not clear to me why that action that has been chosen is a Constitutional Amendment affecting every election in perpetuity which as Assemblyman DePhillips pointed out is a very significant act and which in my opinion merits a better, less rushed and more considered process. As Assemblyman Auth said this could be introduced as a similar amendment enabling us to accommodate the delayed census numbers for this unique challenge. Probably very similar to the amendment you proposed currently, but that would not permanently alter our future redistricting. I’ve heard several legislators mention that this amendment will be put to the voters who will ultimately decide so this is a democratic process. As you’re all aware, questions in this state cannot be placed on the ballot without passing through the Legislature. As far as I understand, the thought behind that is that the Legislature will vet these questions prior to allowing them on our ballot.” Indivisible Cranbury and the Good Government Coalition
“I am not in favor of deferring accurate and fair representation for the New Jersey electorate until 2023 as outlined in this bill. One could claim that it is unfair and out of federal compliance for the state to go more than ten years without redistricting, and, with data released in advance of the redistricting cycle and elections, one could also claim malapportionment or use more recent American Community Surveys to demonstrate that an election on 10+ year data is a deprivation of one person one vote.” Amy Torres, Concerned citizen
“…inserting a permanent change into the Constitution to deal with this cycle’s unprecedented challenge must be considered with great care. Population shifts since the last decennial census mean that the proper representation of some communities of interest will be deferred for two years. The practical need to delay implementing a new map for two years needs to be weighed against the deferred representation of those communities.” Patrick Murray, Monmouth University
“Amending our Constitution is and should be a weighty matter. If we are going to do it and ask the public to approve the amendment, let it be to achieve meaningful and lasting change that strengthens our democracy, and directly benefits the very people whose interests the Legislature is mandated to advance.” NJ Appleseed, Member of Fair Districts NJ Coalition
“The bill identifies the right problem but in our opinion, it proposes the wrong solution. This map is based on 10-year-old data. Folks are not fairly represented because of natural geographic changes. Some districts have too many people, some districts have too few. Minority populations have changed and increased dramatically and it hasn’t been equal across 40 districts. So we have to correct that and do so as quickly as possible and as accurate.” David Pringle, Clean Water Action
“This time, the effort is… still contrary to the American ideals of voters having a voice in their government and institutions that don’t favor one set of partisans over another. As we’ve said before, as a matter of principle, changes bearing on elections must be made on a bipartisan basis to ensure the inherent lust for power of political parties doesn’t undermine American democracy. Democrats must also drop this latest rush to change the election process in their favor. There will be plenty of time to adjust to a delay in census data, if any.” The Press of Atlantic City
“If Jersey City doesn’t go through redistricting for next year’s election, it would effectively mean the ward map would reflect 15-year-old numbers before the next time city council elections are held in 2025 – or halfway through the 2020 census. Using old ward lines in Jersey City next year could result in the underrepresentation of minority voters. The same situation affects other municipalities with ward council elections in 2021, including Atlantic City, Linden, Monroe, Old Bridge, Plainfield, Roselle, Summit, Toms River, Westfield and Woodbridge.” New Jersey Globe