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New Jersey Redistricting Commission holds first hearings

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January 29, 2011

By Kyle Maichle

CAMDEN, New Jersey: The 10 members of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission held their first public meetings on January 29, 2011, in Camden and Toms River.[1][2]

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.[2] Democrats stressed if a 11th member is added, it would allow the additional person to have adequate time to consider map configurations.[2] 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."[2]

Republican members stressed a provision in the state constitution mandating the commission to meet for one month before including an 11th member.[2] Jay Webber, Chairman of the GOP's redistricting effort, said: "it is an accelerated and compressed process, but one that we feel requires us to follow the dictates of the constitution and work together as members of the try to find a map and make every effort."[2]

In the days leading up to the first meeting, commission members were engaged in partisan infighting.[3] John Wisenewski told the Courier-Post that: "I'm trying to be polite, but the reality is it took Republicans until Monday to get back to us with an agreement on location and time."[3] Wisenewski also said: "the foot-dragging has been entirely on their part."[3] It was not until January 26, 2011, that the commission announced times and locations of the meetings.[3]

The deadline for the 10 member commission to get a plan in place is one month after Census data is released.[2] If no plan is reached, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court would appoint the 11th member to the commission.[2][4] The 11th member is nonpartisan and would decide the outcome on how the maps would be drawn.[2]

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