Senate President Steve Sweeney needs to keep 21 of the 25 Senators in line to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change the way legislative districts are drawn.
One of the swing votes could be Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon), who risks losing party support for re-election in 2021 if she votes with Sweeney to substantially reduce the power of Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie over legislative redistricting. As state party chairman, Currie presently appoints all five redistricting commission members; under the new plan, Currie would get just two appointments of what would be six Democratic commissioners.
Pou is a staunch ally of Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), but does not necessarily have the support of Currie or the newly-elected mayor of Paterson, Andre Sayegh. She could probably lock in her re-election if she opposes the constitutional amendment, but that could put her on the outs with Sweeney and other party leaders who support the new plan.
To be sure, there are no Republican votes to be had on the redistricting proposal.
If Gov. Phil Murphy gets his three Senate allies – Richard Codey (D-Roseland), Ronald Rice (D-Newark) and Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) – to back him, then he and Currie need just one more vote to stop the amendment resolution from being passed this year. It’s not clear that Murphy become heavily involved in the redistricting issue, and it’s not certain that Codey, Rice, and Sacco oppose the measure.
But Murphy and Currie can get four no votes, the spotlight would then shift to Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence). Of the two, Gill would be the least likely to support the constitutional amendment. She opposed a similar plan the last time it was proposed.