New Jersey Supreme Court asks Wallace to elaborate on redistricting decision

 Politico

01/04/2022

John Wallace Jr. addresses the media after the announcement that he has been nominated to the State Supreme Court of New Jersey in Princeton, N.J. on Saturday, April 12, 2003.

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The New Jersey Supreme Court, in the wake of a Republican challenge, has asked for a more thorough explanation from congressional redistricting tiebreaker John Wallace Jr. as to why he selected the Democrats’ map.

Wallace, a former state Supreme Court justice and registered Democrat, sided with Democratic redistricting commissioners on Dec. 22, saying he ultimately went with their map “simply because in the last redistricting map, it was drawn by the Republicans.”

Wallace said the Democratic and Republican proposals both met constitutional standards, complied with the Voting Rights Act and took most of his priorities into account, like making districts as compact as possible. The only advantage the Democrats’ map had, he said, was “partisan fairness.” However, Wallace said he didn’t base his decision on that factor.

In an order issued Tuesday afternoon, the state’s highest court said "a more detailed statement of reasons would assist the Court” and that a rule “allows a trial judge or agency head to submit ‘an amplification of a prior [oral] statement [or] opinion‘ when an appeal is taken."

“[T]he Court respectfully requests that the Chairperson of the Redistricting Commission amplify the grounds for his decision,” the order states.

Background: Wallace was the Democratic redistricting commissioners’ choice for tiebreaker. The Supreme Court chose him over the Republicans’ pick for tiebreaker — former state Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus.

Democrats’ 10-2 majority in the New Jersey House delegation is likely to shrink to 9-3 under the new map. That’s because the state’s 7th District, represented by Rep. Tom Malinowski, will shed Democratic areas to the benefit of three other previously vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

The previous map, drawn in 2011, resulted in a 12-member delegation split evenly between Democrats and Republicans until 2016, when Democrats gained an advantage they would increase during former President Donald Trump’s time in office.

Redistricting Republican Delegation Chair Doug Steinhardt, in an angry statement after the 13-member commission voted last month, called Wallace the “seventh Democrat” on the panel.

Republicans on Dec. 30 asked the court to toss the map, arguing the vote “was invalid because it was contingent upon the flawed vote and reasoning by Chair Wallace.”

What’s next? The court requested Wallace’s “amplification” of his decision by Jan. 11, the constitutional deadline for the map’s certification. Steinhardt in a statement last week also suggested more legal challenges could be coming.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-01-06 03:21:45 -0800