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Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt. Photo by Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe.

Steinhardt urges preemptive defense against possible redistricting push

Coughlin, Sweeney say another shot at redistricting still on the table

By Nikita Biryukov, December 04 2019 4:27 pm

The state Republican party is moving to preemptively head off the possibility of a renewed push at legislative redistricting reform.

“Bringing their intraparty street fight for political power full circle, Democratic politicians in Trenton are spitting in the faces of New Jersey’s 9 million residents by reintroducing and reconsidering the same rancid redistricting amendment they pursued last year to rig the legislative reapportionment process and secure for themselves a permanent majority in the legislature,” GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt said.

No redistricting constitutional amendment has been introduced, and it’s unclear how similar a potential redistricting bill would be to the one that died last year after pushback from Republicans, good-government groups and progressives, including Gov. Phil Murphy.

On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said another push at redistricting reform was under consideration for the lame duck session.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said he and Coughlin had yet to discuss the issue, adding that there was time left in the legislative session for redistricting.

That measure, which was thrown out last December, would have tied apportionment for the state’s competitive districts to each party’s performance in statewide races.

Such a system would have favored Democrats. Republicans haven’t won a presidential election in New Jersey since 1988, and they haven’t won a U.S. Senate race in the state since 1972.

“Their desperate power grab is unsurprising, since they had their worst statewide election showing in 28 years,” Steinhardt said. “By rewriting the rules and rigging the election system, greedy politicians create legislative districts that take you and your votes for granted.”

Democrats lost two seats in the Assembly and one seat in the State Senate this year.

There’s little time to act on redistricting.

Because the process is governed by the state’s constitution, changing it will require a constitutional amendment.

Amendments to the state’s constitution must sit for 20 days after being introduced. After that period is done, either chamber must hold a single public hearing on the amendment before it goes to full votes in both chambers.

The measure would then have to win a 60% supermajority — 48 votes in the Assembly and half as many in the Senate — or win a simple majority in two consecutive years to end up on the ballot

The waiting period means the measure wouldn’t see a vote until Christmas, and the legislature is rarely called into session between then and the new year.

“If you’re reading this, I ask you to join the NJGOP and fight back,” Steinhardt said. “Contact your state legislators and tell them that to earn your support, they must support fair elections.”

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