A constitutional amendment that would allow New Jersey to delay legislative redistricting if it does not receive census data by Feb. 15 of next year won 60% majorities in both chambers over Republican objections Thursday.
The measure still needs voter approval, but it will be on the ballot in November.
Should it pass, the amendment would allow legislative candidates to run for election in existing districts next year if census data is not sent to Gov. Phil Murphy by Feb. 15.
If that happens next year, as is likely, a new map would have to be adopted by March 1 of 2022.
The vote in the Senate was split cleanly along party lines. All 25 of the chamber’s Democrats voted to back the measure, while all 15 Senate Republicans voted against it.
The situation was much the same in the Assembly, where the bill passed 51-26.
Republicans who spoke against the bill warned that the measure would do little more than protect incumbents and urged lawmakers to simply delay next year’s primaries if census data came in late.
“This measure is unnecessary and it’s extreme,” State Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Neshanic Station) said. “It’s not about fairness or accuracy. It’s about protecting incumbents and the majority party’s two decades of control of the legislature.”
Advocacy groups have raised concerns that the amendment would disenfranchise non-white voters.
New Jersey’s Latino and Asian populations have soared since the current legislative map was drawn in 2011, and the activists warn delaying redistricting could rob those groups of representation in the legislature.
The amendment’s proponents have sought to minimize the risk it poses, saying that, at worst, the amendment would make the state redraw its lines in cycles of eight and 12 years instead of in cycles of 10 years.