Over the objections of Republican members and with the reservations of several Senate Democrats, a bill to change New Jersey’s redistricting process passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. The bill would introduce a constitutional amendment to make redistricting occur based on averaged polling data from statewide elections, rather than by population changes recorded during the national census. Though the bill would mandate that 10 of New Jersey’s districts be competitive at all times, critics say it would favor Democrats and permanently tip the scales in their favor. Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) reiterated objections first raised by Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) during the Assembly’s hearing on the bill last week, saying that the Democratic sponsors had rushed the bill into committee without adequate notice and with a view to force it through with two two-thirds votes rather than one three-fifths vote before the end of lame duck.
“There was never any intent by the majority party to include individuals of a different political affiliation within this context, whether it’s within the legislation or functionally in the legislative process,” said Kean. “They don’t even want to use everybody in their caucus by using two single-year efforts to go through this process.”
With the Supreme Court’s decision pending in Evenwel v. Abbott, a case that will determine national precedent on redistricting and the question of whether to apportion based on eligible voters or actual voters, Senator Nia Gill (D-34) voted yes but said she believes the legislature should remember an unexpected ruling could kill the bill in the water.