Philip Carchman, a former state appellate court judge and the tiebreaking 11th member of the New Jersey Legislative Apportionment Commission, issued a statement today laying out his standards for the state’s new legislative map, including the important expectation that districts adhere to a 5% population deviation.
Unlike federal congressional districts, which are required to be of exactly equal size within a given state, New Jersey allows for some population deviation in order to keep municipal boundaries intact – a requirement for all districts except those incorporating Jersey City and Newark, which are each larger than one legislative district.
“Recognizing that it is virtually impossible for each district to be identical in population, the law permits a deviation of up to 5%, that is, 2.5% above and 2.5% below the required district size,” Carchman wrote. “Districts should be drawn to achieve that result.”
The ideal district size is 232,075, meaning that Carchman will theoretically be amenable to districts with between 226,273 and 237,877 residents.
Also included in Carchman’s statement are expectations that map proposals adhere to the Voting Rights Act, protect communities of interest, create competitive districts where possible, and cause relatively little disruption to the existing map, all of which he previously stated at the commission’s first meeting in October.
Carchman also noted that the minority population of New Jersey has grown over the past decade – up to 48% of the state’s total population – and the new map should reflect that.
“Based on New Jersey’s geographic and demographic diversity, the state’s communities of interest are many,” he wrote. “Although the preservation of communities of interest cannot displace mandatory apportionment principles, to the extent possible, districts should be created to preserve communities of interest.”
The commission is made up of 11 total members: five Democrats, five Republicans, and Carchman, who was selected as tiebreaker by the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court after the two parties failed to agree on a final member. Carchman said in October that he hopes that the parties will come together to draw one map, but that he is prepared to choose between two options if necessary.
“I may be required to make a hard call and cast a difficult vote,” he said. “I have done that throughout my professional career, and I am prepared to do so here.”