Hoarding Power (by any means necessary!)

In a press conference after Governor Phil Murphy’s 2020 budget speech, Senate President Steve Sweeney said the NJ legislature gave Murphy a good budget and he’s happy the governor signed that budget. Then he criticized the governor.

Census2020 forms are in the mail! Which means Redistricting2021 is right around the corner!

(Cherry Hill) — Ahhh redistricting, that once-a-decade chance for politicians to redraw their own political boundaries. Redistricting happens next year, but in NJ the machinations are well underway to protect partisan incumbents at the expense of non-aligned and 3rd party voters.

Redistricting is partisan bloodsport in many states including New Jersey, where unaffiliated voters actually have a plurality.

According to official figures, New Jersey currently boasts 6,114,630 registered voters. That figure include 2,459,369 voters (a whopping 41%) who are neither Democrat nor Republican. That’s the largest voting bloc in the state, folks.

And yet, when the new maps are drafted, non-aligned and third party voters will be wiped from the calculus. That’s because, by design, redistricting is dominated by self-interested partisans keen to entrench their status quo for another decade.

There’s nothing we can do (is there?) to change the caustic red versus blue nature of New Jersey’s redistricting process. But I’m not above reminding Trenton’s most partisan quislings that 41% of registered NJ voters are neither Republican nor Democrat by choice.

2018

Remember when the Norcross bloc of South Jersey Democrats pushed a plan to enshrined partisan gerrymandering into the state constitution? It blew up in their face after voilating one-too-many fair play sensibilities. Voters should be choosing their representatives and surely not the other way around.

But no!

Norcross democrats still prefer a regime where politicians choose their own voters and then lock it into place for a decade.

Despite Sweeney’s admonitions to the contrary his amendment scheme was never about engaging voters in a meaningful in NJ, a state where a 50% turnout is something to write home about. That because voter turnout has never been a top priority to the same Norcross dems who came thisclose to locking their version of gerrymandering into the NJ constitution.

2020

I was knee-deep in quarantine-scented ennui last week when Matt Friedman’s NJ Playbook hit my inbox. The roundup included this NJ Globe headline:

“Sweeney will take seat on legislative redistricting commission.”

I felt the ennui give way to rage and I know it was rage because I could feel my ears turning red.

Here we go again.

There’s a very short and tightly curated list from whom to choose but technically, John Currie, chairman of NJ’s Democratic Party, decides which Democrats will redraw the maps.

So when Sweeney say things like “my appointment will honor the agreement we made to keep our NJ Democratic Party unified,” he’s just floating trial balloons.

Right?

Saily Avelenda is the executive director of the NJ State Democratic Committee.

“As I’ve already said, we’re focused on COVID-19 right now and on saving lives,” Ms Avelenda told InsiderNJ. “No appointments have been made to the redistricting commission by Chairman Currie and no appointments will be made by the Chairman until later in the year.”

So, yeah, another Sweeney trial balloon.

Let’s pop that, shall we?

Reinging Men

There are 10 slots on next year’s redistricting committee, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Most of the names currently in circulation are male names both sides. And when I say “most” I’m talking 80-90% range.

Likewise, it’s an all-male shortlist of presumptive democratic commissioners, each uniquely suited to shore up and further entrench specific sitting (male) incumbents.

One potential commissioner is law partners with a sitting NJ Senator, to share just one especially patriarchal example of men boosting the prospects of other men for decades at a time.

If you’ve ever wondered why, in the year of our Lord 2020, the NJ General Assembly is still 70% male, now you know a huge reason why.

New Jersey’s redistricting process was never about giving voters compact, fairly  competitive districts. In fact, the whole process of the opposite of that: party first. Then principles. Democratic and Republican voters come last and independent voters are stripped from the calculus.

How is that even constitutional? Can we truly make a compelling reason why non-partisans are treated so differently in the redistricting process?

New Jersey doesn’t need a commission to create new legislative boundaries next year. A computer could do this and without the partisan fuss, probably in a matter of nanoseconds, with no commission necessary!

And the result would be vastly superior and infinitely fairer than the partisan nincompoopery that’s about to happen.

Jay Lassiter is an aging NJ political raconteur with a 4.94 Uber rating. He covered the last redistricting in 2010. If chairman Currie wants pack the redistricting commission with women and gays, Jay is ready to serve. 

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