New Jersey Democrats want to make Republicans a permanent minority - and are getting accused of gerrymandering for it
- New Jersey Democratic lawmakers are attempting to make Republicans a permanent minority, by law.
- The New York Times reported that a proposal making its way through the state's legislature - a Democratic stronghold - would amend the New Jersey constitution to require district maps to reflect how major political parties perform in statewide elections.
- The proposal caused alarm not only among Republicans, Democratic leaders such as former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, the head of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, have also criticized the measure.
- New Jersey voters would approve the proposal through a ballot measure.
Democrats have control over New Jersey's State Senate, House and governorship. They are looking into making this power permanent under a proposal that would ensure Republicans are the minority in the Garden State.
The New York Times reported that Stephen M. Sweeney, the New Jersey State Senate president, and fellow state legislator Nicholas P. Scutari, have proposed a bill that would allow voters to decide how redistricting should be done. The Democrats' proposal would amend the state's constitution by overhauling a redistricting committee and giving more power to legislative leaders, according to The Times.
If passed, the measure would establish a "fairness test" that would require district maps in the state to reflect how major political parties perform on statewide elections. This year, New Jersey elected Phil Murphy, a Democrat, as governor. The state's two senators, Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, are Democrats.
The plan has been criticized as gerrymandering by both Republicans and Democrats. Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama and head of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told The Times that "the American people want redistricting reforms that help level the playing field so that elections are decided on who has the best ideas, not which party was in charge of drawing the lines."
The New Jersey proposal, Holder said, "fails to live up to those standards."
Tom Kean Jr., the Republican leader in the State Senate, told The Times that the proposal "institutionally strips away the will of the voter."
But Sweeney and Scutari argue that the plan has nothing to do with gerrymandering. Scutari told The Times that, if this plan were put in the matrix and tried out in Texas, "you'd probably get significantly more legislative districts that favored Republicans."
"If we have a significant advantage in voters, then you're going to have a significant difference in legislative districts," he said.
Since no Republican in the state's legislature supports the plan, The Times reported that Democratic leaders are looking into using a provision in the state's laws that allows an amendment passed with a simple majority in the state's legislature to be placed on a ballot. They have scheduled a vote on the plan for next Monday, the last day the legislature will meet this year.
As his party colleagues seem to push this measure through, Murphy, the state's Democratic governor, said he worries the plan would weaken his ability to influence the process.
"I have as much a concern about the process as I do even about the substance," Murphy told The Times. "I don't like the substance, but this is classic jam something through, and I got elected to stand up against that and I'm going to."