With the tiebreaker for congressional redistricting set, there will be a lot of hurry up and wait when it comes to knowing the identity of independent member of the panel that will redraw New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts for the 2023 mid-term elections.
The 11th member of the Legislative Apportionment Commission is picked by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.
Last month, Rabner asked both parties to submit a list of possible tiebreakers to him by August 10 – that date has since been extended to August 17 – and designated former Chief Justice Stewart Pollock to review the names and tell him if there are any matches. He has indicated that if a name appears on both lists, he’ll be inclined to pick that person.
Rabner set no limit on the number of names a party can submit.
Still, it may be a little while before the public knows who the tiebreaker will be.
The U.S. Census Bureau is due to release municipal data used to redraw districts on August 12, but the tiebreaker won’t come until 30 days after the census numbers are certified – probably sometime in October.
Unlike the selection of the congressional tiebreaker, where both parties vote and the full Supreme Court chooses between the top two vote-getters, Rabner unilaterally makes the pick. With no boundaries in the State Constitution, the chief justice may choose whomever he wants.
Rabner has given no indication what criteria he might use if both parties offer up no common names for the post.
The process for picking tiebreakers for congressional and legislative is different.
The congressional tiebreaker is picked by the full New Jersey Supreme Court only of the Congressional Redistricting Commission fails to agree on a candidate.
Last week, a majority of the court voted to select Democrat John Wallace, a former Associate Justice, as the tiebreaker.
That decision to go with Wallace and not Republican Marina Corodemus on congressional doesn’t necessarily mean Rabner will use a Solomonic option and select someone from the Republican list for legislative redistricting.
“The chief justice is very astute politically and fully understands the sensitivity of the predicament this particular appointment puts him in,” said a retired judge who is close to Rabner. “I’m sure he watched the gamesmanship of the congressional slot from both parties and he’s not about to allow anyone to play him.”