N.J. Republicans sue to overturn congressional district map that favors Democrats

Published: Dec. 30, 2021

The Republican members of New Jersey’s independent redistricting commission asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to throw out the district maps that all but ensured Democratic domination of the congressional delegation for the next decade.

The lawsuit charged that the commission’s chair and tiebreaking member, retired state Supreme Court Judge John Wallace Jr., used “an arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable vote and reasoning” when he chose the map drawn by the Democratic commissioners over the Republican proposal.

“It’s insulting to me as a member of the commission, it’s insulting to me as a voter,” said Doug Steinhardt, the Republican delegation chair. “I would have at least liked the courtesy of being told that my map stunk. Justice Wallace did a disservice to 9 million people when he walked away from the process, threw up his arms and basically said he wasn’t going to make a decision.”

“That’s not the way the New Jersey constitution works and that’s not the way the 14th Amendment works,” he said.

Wallace said at the Dec. 22 commission meeting that both proposals met his criteria, but “fairness dictates that the Democrats have the opportunity to have their map used for this next redistricting cycle,” since the previous districts were drawn by the Republicans.

He declined comment Thursday.

The state’s congressional delegation under the earlier Republican map shifted from a 6-6 split to a 10-2 Democratic advantage. The new lines gave three of the state’s four potentially endangered Democratic incumbents safer districts to run in.

The new districts approved by the commission Dec. 22 gave only Democrat a tougher race next year. 7th Dist. Rep. Tom Malinowski, who is in a rematch against state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union. Malinowski defeated Kean by just 1 percentage point in 2020 under the old lines and the district was given a less pronounced Democratic lean for 2022.

Steinhardt said the Republican proposal would have established five competitive districts.

“In a state where Republicans historically garner about 45% of the voted in federal election cycles and hold 17% of the seats, a map that perpetuates that 17% doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Redistricting lawsuits bypass the lower courts and go straight to the state Supreme Court.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-12-31 03:33:10 -0800