The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment today that would change the way New Jersey draws legislative districts after the 2020 census.
Legislative leaders want to take the power of appointments to a bi-partisan commission that draws the map away from the state party chairs. The new plan would increase the size of the commission from 10 to 12 members, giving two picks each to the Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, Assembly Speaker and Assembly Minority Leader. The two state party chairs will get two appointees, down from the current level of five.
The Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court would still pick the tie-breaker. Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the tie-breaking member would be named at the outset instead of after the two parties fail to agree on a map.
If Gov. Phil Murphy opposes the plan, the Legislature can work around him by passing the same resolution again in 2019. That would put the measure on the ballot in the fall.
Republicans already oppose the plan put forth by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Nicholas Scutari, largely because it also includes a constitutional requirement to use a fairness model developed in 1991 by Donald Stokes, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.
The Stokes model would require at least ten legislative districts to be considered competitive. The competitiveness of a district would be based on political party performance in presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races over the last ten years – something that would strongly favor Democrats.
At least four Republican State Senators would be in danger of losing their seats in 2021 if the proposed constitutional amendment is adopted: Dawn Addiego (R-Evesham), Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg), Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), and Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest. The six Assembly Republicans in the 8th, 21st, and 39th districts could also be in jeopardy.