Redistricting in New Jersey

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Redistricting in New Jersey
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General information
Partisan control:
New Jersey Redistricting Commission
March 4, 2011 for state legislative districts. January 2012 for congressional redistricting.
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
Redistricting in New Jersey is done by a redistricting commission. The New Jersey Redistricting Commission is responsible for drawing the state's legislative and congressional boundaries. New Jersey is one of 13 states to use a Commission-based redistricting method.


The New Jersey Redistricting Commission is responsible for redistricting. This is one of 13 commissions nationwide that is responsible for redistricting. This redistricting commission is comprised of 10 members, chosen by the following:

If a plan is not in place, the New Jersey Supreme Court selects an 11th member.

State law does not require the Redistricting Commission to hold public hearings[1]. The Commission plans to hold public hearings and launch a website giving the public a chance to offer input[2].


In 2011, legislative redistricting must be completed by April 1, 2011, assuming the official census data is received by February 1.[3]. For congressional redistricting, a new commission must be formed by June 15, 2011. The redistricting plan is due by January of 2012[4].

Commission members

Figure 1: This map shows the New Jersey Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

In 2011, the 11 members of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission for legislative boundaries are[4]:


  • Jay Webber (Chair), State assemblyman
  • Kevin O'Toole, State senator
  • George Gilmore
  • Bill Pallatucci
  • Irene Kim Asbury

The 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans will work together on a redistricting plan. If they cannot come to an agreement, then State Supreme Court Justice Stuart Rabner will appoint an 11th member to serve as the tiebreaker.

Half of New Jersey's voters are "unaffiliated" -- which has led to some speculation as to why there are no unaffiliated representatives on the commission.[7]

Public input debate

Both Democrats and Republicans have emphasized the importance of public hearings in the redistricting debate. However, there is disagreement over the method by which public input should be acquired.[8] Republicans have scheduled four public hearings that they have invited Democratic leaders to attend. Meanwhile, Democratic chairman John Wisniewski said advice they have received indicates having a structure in place before holding public sessions is imperative.[9]

The four Republican hearings are scheduled for the following dates:[10]

  • Wednesday, January 12 at 6 pm, Rutgers Law School, Newark
  • Thursday, January 13 at 6 pm, Hudson County Community College, Jersey City
  • Tuesday, January 18 at 6 pm, Rowan University, Glassboro
  • Thursday, January 20 at 6 pm, Ocean County Administration Building, Toms River

Wisniewski responded to Webber's letter, emphasizing that the Republican Committee chair does not have "authority to unilaterally call Apportionment Commission public hearings."[8]

Both sides have indicated they will not attend the meetings being pushed by the other side.

A editorial written by the The Courier-Post on January 21, 2011, argued that all meetings held by the redistricting commission should be open to the public. The editorial also argued that sitting lawmakers should not be on the state's redistricting commission[11]. The newspaper felt that the redistricting process should be owned by the people of New Jersey and not by the Republican or Democratic Parties[11]. MyCentralJersey argued for redistricting in the Garden State to "be a non-partisan effort" in a editorial written on January 19, 2011 [12].

Census results

New Jersey lost a congressional seat in the 2010 Census. This reduces the state from 13 to 12 congressional districts[13].

The State of New Jersey received its local Census data on February 3, 2011. [14] The five most populous cities in the 2010 Census were Newark with 277,140, Jersey City with 247,597, Paterson with 146,199, Elizabeth with 124,969 and Edison with 99,967. [14] When compared to the 2000 Census, Newark grew by 1.3 percent, Jersey City grew by 3.1 percent, Elizabeth grew by 3.7 percent, and Edison grew by 2.3 percent. [14] Paterson lost 2 percent of its population compared to the 2000 Census. [14]

Politically-driven redistricting?

Despite New Jersey has a bi-partisan commission for redistricting, party politics may inject the final drawing of the state's congressional districts. Republican Congressmen Jon Runyan and Leonard Lance are concerned that they could go up against another incumbent if they are redistricted out. Both Congressmen urged the New Jersey Redistricting Commission to remove a congressional district from Northeast New Jersey instead of targeting their districts. Congressman Lance told The Hill that his Northwestern New Jersey district has not experienced population loss in comparison to the Northeastern part of the state[15]. Despite Democrats currently hold an one seat edge on congressional districts, Congressman Lance is hopeful that the bi-partisan commission will properly redraw the maps without regard to political preferences The Hill also reported on January 11, 2011, that New Jersey's redistricting commission has had a history of protecting incumbents at the expense of congressional members with less seniority[15].

Jersey City and Newark

For many years, Jersey City and Newark have been split into three different legislative districts[11]. This means the two cities had three State Senators and six Assembly members represent some of their residents[11].

In 2011, there is the possibility of Jersey City and Newark no longer being split-up into more than two districts[11]. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that a district must have more than 50 percent of its voters from minority groups in order to be protected by the Voting Rights Act[11]. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that that it would be hard to justify keeping Jersey City and Newark split into more than two districts[11].

One example is State Senator Richard Codey who could lose support from urban voters that backed him for many years and face re-election in a more suburban district[11].

Legislative districts moving South?

With state officials preparing to receive population data to create new districts, a possibility exists that a entire state legislative district could move from Northern to Southern New Jersey. [16] Republican and Democrat negotiators could move a district from the Northeastern portion of the state to the Central or Southern regions in order to balance out population shifts.[16] The possible areas that could receive a new district are Ocean and Burlington counties. [16]

The whole commission meets

The 10 members of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission held their first public meetings on January 29, 2011, in Camden and Toms River. [17] [18]

During the first of two meetings in Camden, commission members debated the merits of adding an 11th tie-breaking member to be included in the early stage of meetings. [18] Democrats stressed if a 11th member is added, it would allow the additional person to have adequate time to consider map configurations. [18] John Wisniewski, leader of the Democratic redistricting team, said: "we think it's essential, especially in the time frame we’re working with, have the involvement of the 11th member, who will almost certainly cast the tie-breaking vote." [18]

Ingrid Reed of the Rutgers-Eagleton Institute of Politics testified that 37 out of 40 legislative districts are not competitive under the current redistricting plan. [19] Reed would like to see the maps drawn to ensure that more districts have competitive races in the future. [19]

After the first meeting, it was reported that Democrats and Republicans agreed on adding an 11th member -- Alan Rosenthal, a Rutgers University public policy professor.[20]

Additional public hearings will be held on February 9, 2011 in Newark and February 13, 2011 in Jersey City. [21]

GOP, Tea Party, and Redistricting

The Tea Party is playing a role on how the New Jersey's political boundaries are re-drawn. [22] Tea Party groups around the state were expressing their views on the topic leading up to 2011. The Tea Party views their biggest obstacle to success is winning in "safe" congressional districts like Frank Pallone's. [22] Tea Party candidate Anna Little challenged Pallone in 2010 and was defeated by 11 percent. [22]

Most of New Jersey's congressional districts do not have contested races. [22] Tea Party groups are demanding to the Redistricting Commission to create more competitive districts. [22] Dwight Kehoe of the Bayshore Tea Party Group is leading a redistricting committee within his organization that aims to stop gerrymandering. [23]

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole was a guest at the Essex County Tea Party Coalition's meeting on January 24, 2011. [24] The Senator explained the ramifications of redistricting with Tea Party supporters. O'Toole said to the group: "I’m on the state redistricting committee. We’re hoping to divide the 40 districts as evenly as is humanly possible." [24]

The Senator also said that: "If history's our teacher, the five Democrats and five Republicans will not agree." [24] If a 11th member of the Redistricting Commission is chosen by the New Jersey Supreme Court, O'Toole is optimistic that it would be favorable to the GOP. [24] Senator O'Toole encouraged activists to get involved in the redistricting process. [24]

Dems blast GOP "shadow group"

Democratic lawmakers called on Republicans to disclose donors of a private group bankrolling efforts to draw more favorable legislative boundaries for the GOP on February 2, 2011. [25]

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg along with Assemblypersons Bonnie Watson Coleman and Nellie Pou accused The Center for a Better New Jersey of avoiding pay-to-play laws by keeping their donors and spending a secret. [25]

The group is a 501(c)4 organization and is not required to disclose their donors. [25]


Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[26]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 1.83%
State Senate Districts 1.83%
Legally, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Constitutional explanation

The New Jersey Constitution provides authority for the creation of and details the duties of an Apportionment Commission in Section III of Article IV.

New Jersey redistricting news

  • NJ Democrats hammer out redistricting plan, January 11, 2011-Hours before Governor Chris Christie gives the State of the State address, Democrats meet in a Trenton hotel to map out its redistricting strategy. A unnamed source to the Democrats told PolitickerNJ that they would overpower Republicans and control the process of redrawing the lines. However, a Republican source rebuffed the Democrats claims and said that the firing of State GOP Chairman Jay Webber would not impact their efforts.

See also

External links


  1. "N.J. legislative redistricting commission starts process that will redraw congressional lines" 18 Jan. 2011
  2. MyCentralJersey "NJ redistricting process to include public input" 18 Jan. 2011
  3. Star Ledger "Congressional redistricting, budget gap could make this a crucial year in N.J. politics," January 2, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 [Confirmed with Congressman Lance's Chief of Staff via phone on January 20, 2011]
  5. Politickernj "Wisniewski fields his redistricting team," September 24, 2010
  6. Examiner New Jersey GOP picks state redistricting team," November 13, 2010
  7. [ Star Ledger "The convoluted process of carving out voting districts," February 11, 2011]
  8. 8.0 8.1 New Jersey Newsroom Democrats say no agreement on public hearings for N.J. legislative reapportionment," January 6, 2011
  9. Politickernj "Parties battle over redistricting hearings," January 5, 2011
  10. Letter from Jay Webber to John Wisniewski on January 4, 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Courier-Post "Redistricting should be entirely public" 21 Jan. 2011
  12. MyCentralJersey "Redistricting commission is all about partisanship", January 19, 2011
  13. Daily Princetonian "New Jersey will lose 13th seat in next Congress" 5 Jan. 2011
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 U.S. Census Bureau "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers New Jersey's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting" 3 Feb. 2011
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Hill "New Jersey redistricting fight puts junior members at risk", January 11, 2011
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "N.J. redistricting could shift legislative seat toward southern part of state" 31 Jan. 2011
  17. [Confirmed via e-mail, in a press release issued from the New Jersey Working Families Alliance on 1-29-2011]
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 "N.J. redistricting commission argues over whether it is at an impasse" 29 Jan. 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 BlueJersey "Let the Redistricting Games Begin" 29 Jan. 2011
  20. Star Ledger "N.J. Democrats, Republicans agree on Rutgers professor as 11th member of redistricting commission," January 29, 2011
  21. "Vital terms, crucial issues in legislative redistricting" 3 Feb. 2011
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Newark Independent Examiner "Minorities, tiebreaker, and competitive districts enter redistricting, Part 2" 1 Feb. 2011
  23. "Tea party group wants in on N.J. redistricting process, seeks to end incumbent shoo-ins" 31 Jan. 2011
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Montclair Patch "Redistricting May Help Republicans, N.J. Sen. O'Toole Tells Tea Partiers" 25 Jan. 2011
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 RealClearPolitics "NJ Dems blast GOP Redistricting 'shadow group'" 2 Feb. 2011
  26. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011