The Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced changes to a constitutional amendment that would delay the state’s legislative reapportionment until 2022 if Census figures are not delivered by Feb. 15 of next year.
The amendment to the amendment cleared the committee in a 4-2 vote along party lines.
A previous version of the bill would have delayed the redistricting until 2023. The amended version also requires the state’s Redistricting Commission begins its work within a month of the state’s governor receiving data from the Census Bureau and clarifies that commission selections are not affected by the delay.
If the amendment passes — it’ll need 60% majorities in both chambers of the legislature and voter approval — the redistricting would have to be completed by March 1, 2022.
The measure saw opposition from the committee’s Republican members and received a mixed reaction from the advocates who testified Thursday.
The Republicans — Assemblymen Bob Auth and Christopher DePhillips — worried about making permanent changes to the constitution. They both asked why lawmakers weren’t pushing a one-shot fix.
“If we have a one-year change then we have a solution for a problem and we’ve fixed the problem,” Auth said. “If you extend it to a permanent status, then we seem like we have a solution looking for a problem.”
Assemblyman John McKean (D-West Orange), the amendment’s sponsor, said it didn’t feel right to have a one-time fix written into the constitution and minimized the amendment’s exploitability. The worst that could happen, he said, is redistricting cycles would work in alternating 12- and eight-year cycles.
Assembly Judiciary Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) also pushed back on suggestions that New Jersey delay its primary to make up for late census figures, saying such delays confuse voters and could reduce turnout.
The committee plans to hold a public hearing on the matter during its June 20 committee meeting, though no date has officially been set.
Aaron Barden, of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, expressed concerns about the amendment’s Feb. 15 trigger date, which he believed was too early and the amendment’s permanence.
He also said that delaying reapportionment would reduce the voting power of Latino and Asian voters, who have grown in number significantly since the current map was adopted in 2021.
The League of Women Voters, The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Fair Districts New Jersey expressed concerns for similar reasons.