In another sign that gerrymandering has become a potent political issue, top Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey were forced over the weekend to spike a proposed constitutional amendment that was sold as redistricting reform but would have entrenched their party’s power in Trenton. The plan faced nearly unanimous opposition across the political spectrum, and from good-government lobbies, national Democratic figures, and other interests. It had been scheduled for a vote Monday afternoon in both chambers of the state Legislature. By the time Democratic leaders announced Saturday night that they were pulling the measure, the chorus of detractors had grown to include a number of rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers. Even the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Loretta Weinberg of Bergen County, expressed some hesitation. “There’s something in this bill to affront almost everybody,” she told WNYC hours before the bill was buried. “That’s not always easy to do. But, apparently, that’s what we managed to do.”
The measure, which had been fast-tracked through the Legislature, would have imposed Democrats’ advantage in statewide elections for president, U.S. Senate, and governor onto local legislative districts. Mapmakers in 2021 would have been forced to redraw the state’s 40 districts in a way that would have ensured no more than 15 of them leaned Republican.
Proponents of the proposal said it would ensure legislative district maps that reflect the will of the voters, but its army of critics said it was a thinly disguised attempt to gerrymander New Jersey in Democrats’ favor.