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New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Census says data will be ready by September 16, triggering multiple redistricting deadlines

County chairs in Atlantic, Essex and Hudson must name county commissioner redistricting commissions by September 26

By David Wildstein, September 02 2021 11:24 am

The tiebreaker for the Legislative Apportionment Commission must be named by October 16, giving Chief Justice Stuart Rabner a little more than six weeks to make his selection.

The deadline follows an announcement by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday that they will release the final format of 2020 census data on September 16 — two weeks early.

New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way has announced that the state will use the second data release date – not the first on August 12 – to trigger the redistricting calendar.

That means adjusted municipal and census tract population numbers to reflect people incarcerated in New Jersey prisons and jails must be released by September 23.  State officials have said the are prepared to meet that deadline, some have questioned whether the Department of Corrections has the exact information necessary to rejigger the numbers.

New laws passed this year require moving individuals from the location of their incarceration to the municipality they were originally living in.

Democratic and Republican county chairmen in Atlantic, Essex and Hudson counties have until September 26 to pick members of the commission that redraws county commissioner districts.

In the event that those commissions cannot agree on a map, Rabner must pick tiebreakers for those posts as well.

The new map of legislative districts must be approved by March 1, 2022, but that could happen anytime after the November general election.  Congressional maps must be completed by January 18, 2022.

Rabner’s pick could come earlier than October 16.  The State Constitution allows the chief justice to pick whomever he wants.

On a call with Democratic and Republican redistricting attorneys on Monday, Rabner did not indicate any specific timetable, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Democrats and Republicans, at Rabner’s request, submitted a list of possible tiebreakers on August 17, but there were no matches.

Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, former U.S. District Court Judges William Bassler and John Lifland, former state Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long, former acting Supreme Court Justice Mary Catherine Cuff, former Superior Court Judge Daniel Mecca, former Commissioner of Human Services Jennifer Velez, retired Rutgers professor Henry Coleman, Seton Hall Law School professor Paula Franzese, and Seton Hall political science professor Matt Hale were the potential candidates submitted to the chief justice.   Republicans submitted Chertoff, Bassler and Lifland.

Had there been a match, Rabner had indicated he would be likely to pick that person.  But those names are now likely burned, since Rabner may want to obviate the appearance that he picked someone from one of the two lists.

Rabner, sources tell the NJ Globe, has kept the door open to a last-minute agreement between the two parties.

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