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Democratic mapmakers block vote pledge to prevent redistricting deal with GOP

Some Democrats calling contract ‘The O’Toole Rule’ to prevent former Republican Senator from crafting a deal map

By David Wildstein, November 17 2020 1:34 pm

The five new Democratic members of the Legislative Apportionment Commission agreed in writing to vote as a block to avoid any deals with Republicans in drawing a new map.

The appointees —  Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, Senate President Steve Sweeney, former McGreevey Chief of Staff Gary Taffet, West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo and Fairview Borough Administrator Diane Testa — signed an 8-point agreement that would bind them to a final map approved by a majority of the Democratic members.

“In consideration of my appointment to the New Jersey Apportionment Commission, I agree as follows,” the letter begins.

Signing the letter was a condition of appointment, according to four sources familiar with the process.

The agreement says that the Democrats “at all times will cast its entire vote as a unit as determined by majority vote, including but not limited to the final vote for certification and establishment of legislative districts.”

Some Democrats have privately dubbed the letter, “The O’Toole Rule,” and refers to concerns that Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, a former Republican state senator with strong Democratic relationships, might be able to craft a deal map between the five GOP commission members and one or two Democrats.

“I understand and agree that I have been appointed by the Democratic State Chairman based on the representation that I will fully adhere to the terms and conditions of the provisions of this Agreement and that any violation of this Agreement will result in my immediate removal from the Commission without further recourse, hearing, or appeal by the execution of this Agreement,” the  letter states.

It’s not immediately clear if Democrats have the ability to bind redistricting commission members to a contract under the section of the New Jersey Constitution that anticipates the possibility of a non-unanimous bi-partisan map prior to a tie-breaker being installed by the Chief Justice.

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