Congressional Redistricting Commission tiebreaker John Wallace has some explaining to do.
That’s at the request of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who this afternoon ordered Wallace to provide better justification for his decision to select a Democratic-drawn congressional map over a Republican-drawn one. While Wallace said that both maps were satisfactory, he chose the Democratic map “simply because in the last redistricting map [in 2010] it was drawn by the Republicans.”
Republicans quickly filed a lawsuit alleging that Wallace did not engage in proper negotiations with the party delegations on the commission, and asked that the Supreme Court either endorse Wallace’s reasoning or order him to reconsider.
Today’s announcement from the Supreme Court is a sign that the court is taking the Republican lawsuit seriously. But according to Director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University Micah Rasmussen, the chances that the map is ultimately struck down seem low.
“I think what’s likely is that we get a better explanation as to what the decision was and why the decision was what it was,” Rasmussen said. “Anybody who thinks it’s more than that is probably engaged in a little bit of wishful thinking.”
Wallace will now have the opportunity to go back to discuss the maps with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, an outside group that advised the former Supreme Court justice throughout the process; Wallace himself reportedly had an uneven grasp of the state’s political geography.
To satisfy the Supreme Court, all Wallace will likely have to do is clarify why he thought the Democratic map was better – not a terribly difficult thing to do, according to Rasmussen, since the final map proposals from both Republicans and Democrats were both relatively reasonable.
In fact, the Democratic proposal grants Republicans their two top priorities: protecting their two incumbents and giving Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) a strong shot in the 7th congressional district. The only real problem, Rasmussen said, was Wallace’s odd implication that maps should be selected based on who won the redistricting fight last time.
“If he could eat his words, I’m sure that he would,” Rasmussen said. “He set off this firestorm with those words. There would really be no challenge at all if it wasn’t for what he said.”