Bipartisan vote brings new legislative map to New Jersey

By Joey FoxFebruary 18 2022 

New Jersey Globe

The final meeting of the Legislative Apportionment Commission on February 18, 2022


The Legislative Apportionment Commission approved a new legislative map on a bipartisan vote today, concluding months of work and four days of intense negotiations over how to draw the state’s 40 legislative districts for the next ten years.

The 9-2 vote was the first time in state history that a legislative map was approved in a bipartisan manner; in every previous cycle, the commission’s tiebreaker was forced to choose between competing maps drawn by each party. This year’s tiebreaker, former Superior Court judge Philip Carchman, explicitly hoped to avoid such a choice, and successfully convinced the commission’s partisan delegations to draw a compromise map while hunkering in a Plainsboro hotel over the past week. 

“We have the first consensus, bipartisan map in apportionment history in the state of New Jersey,” Carchman said today. “Think about, in this day and age of politics, what it takes to achieve a bipartisan map.”

Republican commissioner and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) voted no, arguing that “there should have been more time to negotiate for a fairer map,” as did Democratic commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, a West New York Commissioner who objected to the redrawing of Hudson County.

“Is the map perfect?” Carchman said in implicit response to the scattered criticism of the map. “The answer is very simple: no it is not perfect. It will never be perfect, because there is no perfect map to be found anywhere.”

The commission began its work in October, but took a backseat to the Congressional Redistricting Commission – which approved a Democratic-drawn map in a contentious and secretive process – until the beginning of this year. After nine public hearings, each delegation on the commission released a separate draft map last week, which was followed by two more public hearings chock full of feedback on the proposals.

Both initial proposals significantly altered the current map, which was drawn by Democrats in 2011, in various ways that would benefit their respective parties. But Carchman gave little indication of which proposal he preferred and encouraged the commissioners to draw a map in tandem with one another instead, which they ultimately chose to do.

As for the adopted map itself, much of the state will be drawn in approximately the same way as it currently is, with a few notable exceptions and with some tinkering across the board.

In South Jersey, a Republican proposal to make the 4th and 8th districts significantly more Republican was accepted, but the 2nd and 11th districts were made mildly more Democratic in exchange.

A Democratic effort to mess around with several Republican incumbents in Morris County was scrapped, as was a Republican proposal to completely redraw Central Jersey to the detriment of more than a dozen Democratic incumbents.

But in Essex and Hudson Counties, the commission radically upended the status quo. The map creates two senator-on-senator matchups – former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) in Essex, and State Sens. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) and Brian Stack (D-Union City) in Hudson – and shifts a large number of assemblymembers into new seats.

Nearly every district in the state is changed in some way, big or small, so almost every incumbent will have to campaign in at least some new territory in 2023.

Ultimately, even though the process was far more transparent than that of the congressional commission, the end result was approximately the same: a map drawn in secret in a hotel, only released to the public once it had already become law.

So with the map already in place, it will be up to the people and politicians of New Jersey to see how their towns, communities, and districts are affected, and plan their next moves accordingly.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-02-19 03:42:46 -0800