Fair Districts New Jersey Coalition: Open Letter to State Party Chairs re: Redistricting
To: Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt and Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie
From: Fair Districts New Jersey Coalition
Subject: Selection of Members of the New Jersey Apportionment Commission
Date: December 13, 2019
Dear Mr. Steinhardt and Mr. Currie:
The Fair Districts New Jersey Coalition is advocating for a Constitutional Amendment to reform New Jersey’s legislative redistricting process into one that is more independent, transparent, equitable and community-driven. Our voting districts are the foundation of our representative democracy, and we believe voters should be choosing their elected officials, not the other way around. If the new boundary lines of our voting districts are drawn by individuals with a personal or professional stake in the final district map, it will undermine our democracy’s legitimacy and call into question the fairness of our elections.
The next redistricting cycle won’t begin for another year, but because both of you have indicated forthcoming plans to select the five members who will represent your party on the New Jersey Apportionment Commission , our statewide advocacy coalition wanted to ensure you had access to our recommendations. While we will continue to work toward passing comprehensive and meaningful redistricting reforms that put the interests of the people first, we are urging anyone responsible for selecting the commissioners to apply strong conflict-of-interest provisions to all selections and exclude from consideration the following categories of individuals:
- Anyone who currently holds elective public office at the Federal, State, county or municipal level, whether they hold such office as a result of an election or an appointment;
- Anyone who currently holds an elective or appointed party office at the Federal or State level;
- Anyone who has been your party’s candidate in a general election for any Federal, State, county or municipal level elective public office during the last three years;
- An officer or employee of, a consultant to, or someone holding a contract with an individual who holds elective public office at the State or county level, the Senate Democratic Office, the Senate Republican Office, the Assembly Democratic Office or the Assembly Republican Office;
- An officer, employee, or paid consultant of a political party, political party committee, political committee, continuing political committee, legislative leadership committee, or campaign committee for a candidate for Federal or State elective public office;
- A registered governmental affairs agent or lobbyist in the State; or
- An immediate family member of the Governor, a member of the Legislature, or a member of Congress.
Members of the New Jersey Apportionment Commission should also be representative of the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the state’s population. They should be individuals who will best be able to redraw the boundary lines of our new voting districts in an independent, honest and impartial manner, who will uphold the principles of the Voting Rights Act, and who will not engage in any effort to gerrymander our districts in any way.
We encourage you to also consider qualified unaffiliated or third-party voters in your decision-making. And one way to ensure the Apportionment Commissioners reflect New Jersey’s diversity and meet the aforementioned criteria would be to give ordinary voters the opportunity to apply for one of the positions. California’s redistricting model highlights the benefits of turning over the line-drawing power to qualified members of the public.
Redistricting should not be a process to be strategically gamed. We are urging you to take these steps to help improve the independence of the New Jersey Apportionment Commission and restore the public’s confidence in our government.
League of Women Voters of New Jersey
New Jersey Appleseed PILC
New Jersey Citizen Action
Clean Water Action
New Jersey Working Families Alliance