Public will get to see proposed state legislative district maps on Monday

New Jerseyans will soon get to see proposed state legislative district maps from Democrats and Republicans — but won’t be told which map was drawn by which party.

Former Judge Philip Carchman, chair of the state legislative redistricting commission, announced the plan for the maps at the beginning of the panel's public hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Carchman said the maps will be posted online Feb. 7 — a week before the commission hunkers down to draw a final map. The closed-door commission meetings are expected to take place at a Princeton-area hotel.

Context: Carchman suggested sharing the maps with the public and eventually gained the consent of both parties, though early on some members of the commission expressed reservations.

The maps add a measure of transparency to the redistricting process, which despite public hearings is usually conducted behind closed doors once it comes down to the actual drawing of district boundaries.

The commission includes five members appointed by the Democratic state chair, five members appointed by the Republican state chair and Carchman, the tie-breaker appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. Democrats won the last redistricting process, in 2011, and currently hold a 46-34 majority in the Assembly and 24-16 majority in the Senate.

Testimony: During Wednesday's meeting, the Fair Districts Coalition, which is made up of the League of Women Voters and a number of progressive advocacy groups, presented the commissioners with a map that would make 20 of New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts minority-majority.

The proposal includes a minority-majority district in Atlantic County; South Jersey doesn’t currently have any minority-majority districts. One ripple effect of that proposal would be drawing state Sens. Michael Testa (R-Cumberland) and Ed Durr (R-Gloucester) into one district while separating West Deptford, the hometown of former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) from the bulk of the 3rd District he represented until Durr defeated him last November.

A number of other incumbent lawmakers around the state would also be lumped into the same districts under the coalition's proposal.

Amy Torres, a member of the coalition and executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said the coalition's map stresses “community over incumbency.”

Other members of the public who spoke during the 90-minute meeting talked about keeping “communities of interest” together or ensuring that specific ethnic or racial groups’ voting clout is strengthened or at least not diluted. Those included Jewish, Arab, Hispanic and Black voters.

Somerset County Republican Chair Tim Howes urged the commissioners to consider splitting his county into fewer legislative districts. It currently includes parts of six districts and does not have a state senator that resides there.

One speaker, Moorestown resident Dale Collins, said he’s found thousands of errors on the state’s voter rolls and estimated that statewide, more than 2,000 voters are registered in the wrong district. He urged the commissioners to make sure the data is corrected under the new map.

What wasn’t mentioned: The drama surrounding Democratic State Chair LeRoy Jones’ decision last week to oust Sweeney from his post as a commissioner did not come up during the hearing. Jones replaced Sweeney with Laura Matos, an executive at the public affairs firm Kivvit.

A judge on Tuesday ruled against Sweeney’s lawsuit to be reinstated to the commission.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-02-03 03:32:28 -0800