Sweeney And Coughlin Pull The Plug On Redistricting Amendment Vote

Democratic leadership from the NJ Assembly give a press conference after the chamber votes to approve the NJ 2020 budget.

Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin announced that the redistricting amendment won’t be taken up for a vote on Monday.  On Friday, the amendment had appeared on both chambers’ board lists for the voting sessions.

Before the announcement, Governor Murphy’s office had highlighted a NY Times editorial in opposition to the plan, and Murphy ally Senator Codey released a statement saying it would ‘move us backward, not forward’ and that the bill ‘as it stands is not in the best interest’ of the state. Several mayors also came out against it: Parsippany Mayor Soriano, Teaneck Mayor Hameeduddin, and Perth Mayor Mayor Diaz.  Senate and Assembly Minority Leaders Kean and Bramnick on Friday called on the legislative leaders to pull the amendment from consideration.

Sweeney released the following statement Saturday evening:

“While we continue to recognize the importance of improving the legislative redistricting process, we will not be moving forward with the proposed ballot resolution on Monday. This will give us the time and opportunity to review the input we have received from the public, our legislative colleagues and others to determine if any of these ideas would improve the proposal.

“We recognize the importance of this issue.  Redistricting provides the foundation for the democratic process and it gives voice to voters. We will maintain an open mind as we continue to work on a proposal that best serves the electoral process and the values of our democracy.”

Speaker Coughlin released the following statement: “I wish to thank Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Senator Nick Scutari and my colleagues in both houses of the Legislature for their time and commitment to seeking out fair improvements to the redistricting process. I appreciate the input from the public and recognize the value of having open public hearings in crafting any legislation regarding such an important issue affecting our democracy. I want to integrate some of the valuable input received  to help create a better measure and improve the redistricting process overall. So therefore, I will not post the redistricting resolution for a vote, but remain committed to strengthening our electoral process.”

The Senate State Government Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee held simultaneous (causing some difficulty for testifying members) public hearings on Thursday, as activists, academics, and some legislators lined up to testify against the measure. Earlier in the morning, before the hearings began, the NJGOP announced a paid digital campaign aimed at stopping the measure. At the Assembly hearing, Assembly Minority Leader Bramnick clashed with Majority Leader Greenwald, a sponsor of the resolution (see his Star-Ledger op-ed and his opening statement video), blasting the process as ‘making the map less competitive‘ and saying the districts ‘should start off equally’. League of Women Voters Director Kathy Abbot decried the proposal, saying it would ‘decrease opportunities for voters to choose candidates’ and add more safe seats to the Legislature. Greenwald, pushing back at the public resistance, challenged opponents to present an alternative option. Action Together NJ founder Winn Khuong said it was unfair for the amendment to be pushed through for a vote on Monday, using ‘completely misleading language’ and called for the tabling of the amendment. On the Senate side, Senator Scutari – the prime sponsor of the resolution – said he’s ‘bewildered’ by the opposition, noting that many of the coalitions against it now were supportive in 2015. Scutari also added that opponents should stop throwing around words like ‘gerrymandering’ and should ‘read the legislation’; several testifiers that followed said they were insulted by the remark. Senate Minority Leader Kean released the prepared version of his testimony, citing numerous sources of opposition to the proposal, calling it a ‘shameless stunt and a power grab’. Monmouth University Professor Patrick Murray – attempting to navigate both committee hearings – called the proposal ‘fundamentally undemocratic’ and that there’s ‘unintended consequences‘ of the language. Take a look at the witness slips from the hearings (PDF).
Earlier this week, Somerset County Democratic Chair Schaffer said that the plan ‘could reverse the progress our party has worked so hard over the last several years to build’, while the chairs of the Morris, Sussex, Warren, and Ocean organizations called on legislators to ‘abandon this proposal and focus on working with Governor Murphy [who’s said the process is ‘completely unacceptable‘] to move the state forward’. HCDO Chairwoman DeGise came out against the proposal; Hudson Senators Stack and Sacco also announced their joint opposition. The Senate GOP doubled-down on its opposition, releasing a list of quotes highlighting academics, editorials, and other leaders who have publicly opposed the plan.


After the vote cancellation announcement was made, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean released a statement, saying ‘this is a big win for the people of New Jersey. The proposed redistricting amendment would have disenfranchised millions of voters, taking away one of the most important rights we have as Americans: the power to choose who represents us in the halls of government.“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Gerrymandering is wrong. We will remain vigilant, and fight back against any redistricting proposal that betrays democracy.


“I hope that this time, the sponsors will work with nonpartisan election experts and legislators on both sides of the aisle, so we can craft a redistricting proposal that we can all be proud of. The people we have the privilege of serving deserve no less than an amendment that ensures fair and equal representation for all’.

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One response to “Sweeney And Coughlin Pull The Plug On Redistricting Amendment Vote”

  1. It was an unforced error by Sweeney and Coughlin – and it was good to see the number of different groups who otherwise rarely agree who came together to oppose this proposal.

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