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New Jersey State Assembly Chambers in Trenton, New Jersey. (Photo: Courtesy of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services).

Deadline to name legislative redistricting tiebreaker is unclear

Murphy must choose whether to start 30 day clock tomorrow or in September

By David Wildstein, August 11 2021 10:26 am

Gov. Phil Murphy will have the ball on Thursday, and he gets to decide when the 30-day clock to pick a legislative redistricting commission tiebreaker.

A 2020 amendment to the State Constitution requires Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to name the tiebreaker “within one month of the Governor’s receipt” of the census data.

The U.S. Census Bureau will publicly release municipal data to be used for redistricting on August 12 and again by September 30 in a format that will make it easier for the public to download information.  The data will be exactly the same, according to the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“The data included in the August and September deliveries will be identical. States can use either the August delivery or the September delivery as appropriate, taking their own statutes and constitutional requirements into account,” the NCSL has said. “The Census Bureau considers both releases to be official and fit for use.”

It’s not clear whether Murphy will use tomorrow as the starting point to have received census data or if he’ll use the official date in September.

The August 12 date would require Rabner to make his decision by September 12.  If Murphy chooses to wait for the final release to start the clock, New Jersey may not know the identity of the tiebreaker until as late as October 30.

Unlike congressional redistricting, where the commissioners voted for a tiebreaker and the full Supreme Court picked one of the two candidates as a result of their stalemate, only Rabner picks a tiebreaker for the Legislative Apportionment Commission.

Both parties are due to submit possible names of the tiebreaker by August 17.  Rabner has designated a retired Supreme Court Justice, Stuart Pollock, to review both lists and provide the chief justice with only those names that appear on both the Democratic and Republican lists.

Rabner has indicated a willingness to select a name that appears on both lists, if there is one.

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