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Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean.

Kean indicates openness to academics’ redistricting reforms

Scholars’ plan would make communities of interest a top priority

By Nikita Biryukov, July 16 2019 4:28 pm

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean indicated he was open to discussing recommendations to improve the state’s redistricting process made by a group of six academics involved in the issue.

“I appreciate the hard work that went into this report and the interest in improving our state’s democratic process,” Kean said. “I look forward to collaborating with these academics and other interested parties as we consider future redistricting reforms.”

The academics — Monmouth University’s Patrick Murray, Princeton’s Samuel Wang and Ben Williams, Montclair State’s Brigid Callahan Harrison, Rutgers Law School’s Ronald Chen, and Yurij Rudensky of New York University — are recommending a constitutional amendment “make communities of interest a central organizing principle for drawing the legislative map.”

They are also seeking to make competitiveness a secondary factor, remove incumbency as a factor altogether and increase the number of independent redistricting commissioners — chosen by the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court — from one two three.

Those commissioners would be appointed at the start of the redistricting process instead of when the two parties reach an impasse.

The academics’ recommendations come after last year’s battle over a constitutional amendment that progressives, Republicans and good government groups and advocates, the academics included, fiercely resisted.

The outcry eventually killed the amendment.

“Last year, we raised the alarm when Democrats attempted to fast-track a constitutional amendment that would have made legislative elections less competitive while cementing permanent Democratic majorities in the New Jersey Legislature,” Kean said “With broad bipartisan support from outside groups and respected academics, we defeated their attempt to rig our elections. Any changes to improve how we reapportion legislative districts should focus on making the process fairer and more transparent.”

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