Senate Majority Conference Leader Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) said he would support a constitutional amendment that would delay the drawing of new legislative districts from 2021 to 2023 if the U.S. Census Bureau does not supply certified numbers from the 2020 census by February 15.
U.S. Census officials have said the state’s numbers will be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and should be ready around June 17.
“Right now, minority communities, including the Hispanic and Asian communities, are drastically underrepresented in our State Legislature—in part because old Census records haven’t kept up with changing demographics,” Gopal said. “If we want to give everyone a voice in our government, we must draw legislative districts that accurately and faithfully reflect the most up-to-date Census data, while also drawing on comprehensive input from the public that this data represents.
Gopal said he wants to avoid New Jersey being locked into “unfair, non-representative districts for the next decade.”
“Three municipalities in my own district have Census response rates below 50 percent—far below the State average—largely due to the difficulties of outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gopal said. “If we allow redistricting to go forward without fully counting these communities, we have failed them. That’s unacceptable.”
The legislation would allow legislators to run once more under the 2021 map and then draw new districts for the 2023 election.”
“We owe it to New Jersey’s diverse voters and communities to make sure that nobody is undercounted,” said Gopal. “The best way to do so is to pass this constitutional amendment this fall.”