In national media, Democrats are whining about GOP measures in Wisconsin to limit executive power. But less national attention has been paid to New Jersey, where Democrat leadership is attempting to use a constitutional amendment to let them gerrymander state election districts to make their power permanent.
Some background: after last year’s election of Democrat Phil Murphy as Governor, New Jersey Democrats control a political trifecta in the state. Now state legislators are looking to make their victory permanent with a constitutional amendment that would further gerrymander New Jersey in favor of Democrats.
Democratic leadership in the Garden State conspired over the Thanksgiving holiday to propose a constitutional amendment, ACR60/SCR43, which would eliminate Republican competition.
The measure’s language is deceiving, because it must ultimately be approved by the voters. It asks: “Do you approve of requiring the commission to establish districts that are competitive and fairly represent voter preferences?”
However, “competitive” in this case means districts that favor Democrats by as much as 10 percent.
The trickery, and gerrymandering measure has earned broad, bi-partisan and non-partisan opposition. Many states seek to avoid gerrymandering by instituting independent commissions, but they aren’t very independent if their mission is to rig each district to grant a huge voter advantage to one party. Implementation of ACR60/SCR43 would reverse the state’s course toward a more fair redistricting process.
The controversial parts of the legislation don’t stop there. It mandates legislative participation in the commission for the first time since 1971. This poses a conflict, because the same legislators drawing the districts also have an incentive to protect their seat.
The new amendment calls for a commission of 13 seats instead of the current 11, and allows the party chairs to select individuals for two seats and gives legislative leaders from both parties direct influence by appointing eight more. Currently, the party chairs each make five seat appointments and the chief justice of the Supreme Court chooses an 11th member in the event of a tie. The new amendment would require the chief justice to select the 13th member at the beginning of the process. This is hardly “independent”.
ACR60/SCR43 is clearly a bid to fool New Jersey voters into endorsing gerrymandering under the guise of a “fair” process, there is no other way to slice it. It gives the majority party, in this case Democrats, the power to ensure their seats stay blue forever.
A group of over 130 leaders in the community with vastly different political backgrounds have joined forces to oppose the legislation by writing a letter to the New Jersey Legislature in opposition to the amendment. Even Sue Altman, a board member of South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, one of the left-wing groups in opposition, commented that “South Jersey Women for Progressive Change pledges to use our large and effective social media reach, our impassioned volunteer network, our coalition across New Jersey that we’ve built on the backs of passionate volunteers, our extensive email list and all the energy of 8,000 angry women to fight this”.
A public hearing is to be slated for this week, ahead of a vote to take place by December 17. If it passes, it will go to a second and final vote next year.
So while the media covers the events in Wisconsin like it is one of the most pressing stories in the country, it’s crickets from the press on the shenanigans in New Jersey. The selective outrage is telling.