In her testimony delivered at a public meeting of the Legislative Apportionment Commission last night, Democratic National Committeewoman Marcia Marley got into the weeds on an issue that no other testifier touched upon: how to measure partisan fairness.
New Jersey is one of only a few states nationwide to hold its state-level elections in odd-numbered years, meaning that turnout looks very different in the state’s gubernatorial and legislative elections than it does in federal elections. Because of this, Marley argued that the commission should look at election results in recent off-years to determine the partisan characteristics of the two proposed legislative maps.
“I want to draw the commission’s attention to the importance of correctly measuring partisan fairness or partisan impact when comparing maps; it matters which election years you use,” Marley said. “A partisan index should use a weighted average of the 2017, 2019, and 2021 votes. By basing it on off-year elections, we are taking into account voter choice in more local-level elections.”
Marley, who is also the president of progressive group Blue Wave NJ, further advocated against using partisan gerrymandering to flip legislative districts.
“A map should not be drawn to benefit a party unable to achieve recent election success in the district,” she said. “This flipping undermines the will of voters in competitive districts by subverting their electoral choices.”
Marley’s testimony was potentially written in response to the Republican legislative proposal, which aims to create a large number of competitive districts that could boost Republicans in a favorable year.
On the Republican map, President Joe Biden won 31 of 40 districts compared to 29 on the current map, which at first indicates that the map favors Democrats. But a large number of those districts lean Republican in off-years, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli won 20 last year, one seat shy of a majority.
Marley’s testimony may therefore have been meant as a warning siren to Democrats that while the Republican map is not overtly unfriendly to Democrats in even-numbered years, it could spell disaster if Republicans have another year as favorable as 2021.