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ICYMI: Opposition to Dems’ Redistricting Power-Play Continues to Mount

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Not a single expert witness or group testified in favor of SCR-43 during a Nov. 26, 2018 committee hearing on the constitutional amendment, which would make cataclysmic changes to New Jersey ‘s legislative redistricting process.

The constitutional amendment, as proposed by New Jersey Democrats, has been widely characterized as a political scheme designed to cement a permanent Democratic majority, disenfranchising millions of New Jersey voters in the process.

The following is a roundup of statements made by nonpartisan election experts, academics, journalists, elected officials, and representatives from variety of organization spanning the political spectrum, who have opposed the legislation since news of the amendment came to light shortly before Thanksgiving.

Here’s what they’re saying…

“I’m a proud Democrat, but I’m also a believer in democracy and opening up democracy and transparency and good processes of government in getting to the right solutions. And I don’t think this meets those tests,”  Governor Phil Murphy (, Nov. 26, 2018)

“This has been a classic throw something out in the proverbial backrooms. It’s completely unacceptable,”Governor Phil Murphy (Insider NJ, Nov. 27, 2018)

“This is undemocratic. Voters should be choosing their politicians — not the other way around.” – Helen Kioukis, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey (Nov. 26, 2018)

“Such a map would create an artificial, evenly-distributed advantage for the majority party. This would drastically reduce the number of seats for the minority party in a way most New Jerseyans would consider to be unfair,” Brian Williams, Princeton University Gerrymandering Project (Nov. 26, 2018)

“By focusing on partisanship and treating communities of interest, and communities of color in particular, as an afterthought, the proposed constitutional amendment is an unacceptable step backwards for New Jersey. We will not go back. Passage of this proposal will virtually ensure the voting power of communities of color will be diluted for decades to come. We successfully opposed this ill-conceived measure before, and we are doing so again today,” Richard Smith, the New Jersey Chapter of the NAACP. (Joint Statement, Nov. 27, 2018)

“It is at best an unproved assumption, and at worst a mistaken one, that voters always vote for the same party’s candidate whether for President or for State Assemblyman. Especially in New Jersey, where state legislative elections are not held in the same year as federal elections, uncritically imposing the results of one election on the process for an entirely different election is ‘mixing apples and oranges.’ As a general matter, requiring that districts be drawn on order to favor one political party, or even both major political parties, is contrary to sound redistricting practice, and enables partisan gerrymandering.” – Ronald K. Chen, Center for Law and Justice (Letter to Sen. Paul Sarlo, Nov. 23, 2018)

“SCR43 would constitutionalize a redistricting process for New Jersey that elevates partisanship over people, and prioritizes ‘competition’ over protecting the ability of communities of color to elect their candidates of choice. We cannot support this proposal. And we urge everyone who cares about the protection of our democracy’s ability to put people first—not partisanship—to join us in opposing SCR43.” – Ryan P. Haygood, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Institute (Joint Statement, Nov. 27, 2018)

“Attempting to mandate political outcomes is not the best way to reform redistricting—and, in fact, could open the door to gerrymandering.” Yurij Rudensky, Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law (Joint Statement, Nov. 27, 2018)

“It is very difficult to see this as anything but a naked power grab by Democrats.” – David Pringle, Clean Water Action (Nov. 26, 2018)

“This is not what Democracy is supposed to look like. The process is fatally flawed.. This doesn’t help create faith in government; it creates more distrust.” David Pringle, Clean Water Action (Nov. 26, 2018)

“What Democrats in Trenton really want is a permanent majority, and they’re trying to rig the state Constitution to provide it,” Wall Street Journal Editorial Board (Dec. 3, 2018)

“So, what are state Senate Democrats doing now? They want voters to amend the state Constitution so that the independent commission would have to follow new rules that clearly favor Democrats. It’s a shameless stunt, and like all shameless stunts, they are rushing this through the Legislature at the last minute to short-circuit any discussion of the merits. On Monday, with Senate President Steve Sweeney cracking the whip, the budget committee approved the maneuver after a brief and superficial hearing before a mostly empty chamber. It was one of those Trenton moments that make you want to take a hot shower to wash away the stink.” Columnist Tom Moran as published in The Star-Ledger op-ed: “Stop the shameless power grab by N.J. Democrats” (Nov. 28, 2018)

“Promoting competition shouldn’t start with a virtual guarantee that 75 percent of the districts will be noncompetitive,” Asbury Park Press Editorial Board (Nov. 25, 2018)

“The way most people use the word “competitive” — if they are at all conversant in conversational English — and the way the sponsors of the proposed changes define the word “competitive” are worlds apart. Heck, they aren’t even in the same dictionary. […] They know you wouldn’t vote for the type of system they want if they described it honestly.” Patrick Murray, Monmouth University Polling Institute, as published in his Nov. 25 op-ed, “Top N.J. pollster: Beware, Dems want you to vote for their redistricting scheme.”

“The constitutional amendment is worded in such a way as to pull the wool over voters’ eyes. This is Democrats being overly greedy for no good reason. It’s almost certain that they will do well with the next map and there are less egregious ways to prioritize the fairness metric. This just further erodes public trust in government for little actual gain.” – Patrick Murray, Monmouth University Polling Institute Director (Politico, Nov. 19, 2018)

Recently in the News…

12/9/2018 on “All you need to know about that controversial, fast-tracked plan that could give N.J. Dems even more power
Many liberal-leaning groups have spoken out. About a dozen activists held a news conference in Newark on Wednesday to lobby against the proposal — many of whom helped flip four Republican U.S. House seats last month. “We refuse to sit by and watch the Democratic party bosses further consolidate their power to have the ultimate leverage when it comes time to whip important votes,” said Sue Altman of South Jersey Progressive Women for Change. Yurji Rudensky of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law suggested this could “open the door to gerrymandering.”

12/1/2018 in The Philadelphia Inquirer: “To combat gerrymandering, N.J. Democrats propose drawing maps to entrench their power
“Bucking a national trend toward fighting gerrymandering by removing partisan politics from the process of drawing political maps, New Jersey Democrats are seeking to amend the state constitution in a way that would entrench their power in Trenton. The proposal has drawn sharp criticism from good-government groups, civil rights groups, and redistricting experts who warn it would allow Democrats to unfairly draw the state’s legislative districts in their favor. A group led by prominent national Democratic figures called it ‘a major step in the wrong direction.'”

11/27/2018 on “After the legal weed drama came a classic Jersey power fight featuring, yes, backroom deals
“Critics warn it would ensure Democrats keep control of the state Legislature for decades. A slightly watered-down version of the proposal advanced out of a state Senate committee Monday night, fast-tracked on the first day after Thanksgiving weekend. But not before Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy defied members of his own party by voicing opposition to it earlier in the day. Not before lawmakers made multiple changes in backroom meetings (yep, there really is a back room) and continued to make alterations even after some votes were tallied. Not before Republicans, academics, and advocates continued to cry foul. And not before a woman in the crowd yelled that Democrats should be “ashamed” of themselves. In other words, it was one of those classic nights for Jersey power politics.”

11/27/2018 in Politico NJ Playbook:
“After a five-hour hearing and a two-hour break — when the once-packed committee room was nearly empty — the Senate budget committee took up and passed a redistricting amendment that would virtually ensure Democratic dominance for decades to come… Note that even though Democratic legislative leadership is pushing this , a vast array of groups — from Republicans to academics to even liberal organization like the Working Families Alliance, which three years ago pushed for a redistricting amendment — are against it. And even the way Democrats advanced it through committee was controversial.”

“The proposal was approved at the end of a marathon hearing during which critics wondered at the wisdom of such a proposal, particularly at this time. Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, questioned whether it was wise for lawmakers to advance the proposal in an era when the public is already deeply divided along partisan lines and as public trust in government is ‘pretty fragile at this point in time.’ But the strongest criticism came from Helen Kioukis, a program associate with the League of Women Voters, who labeled the proposed changes “undemocratic.” The hearing also contained a bizarre moment when some lawmakers’ votes were allowed to be recorded ahead of time despite a series of last-minute amendments being made; the lawmakers had apparently already left the State House.”

11/26/2018 on “N.J. Democrats have all kinds of power these days. This new plan of theirs could give them more.
“Two sources with knowledge of the situation said top Democratic lawmakers are trying to diminish the role of Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie, a Murphy ally. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has frequently locked horns with both the chairman and the governor. The sources — who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive matters — said a plan to displace Currie as chairman went nowhere and the restricting proposal surfaced as another avenue to kneecap him.”

Additionally, on Dec. 11, 2018, the following 50 groups submitted letters to State legislators announcing their united opposition:

Action Together New Jersey
Allied for the American Promise
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
American Promise
Better Angels – Summit Chapter
Clean Water Action
Democracy for America, Essex County
Environment New Jersey
Faith in New Jersey
Food & Water Watch
Good Government Coalition of New Jersey (GGCNJ)
Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
Indivisible Cranbury
Indivisible Lambertville/New Hope
JOLT Ridgewood
League of Women Voters of New Jersey
Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry NJ
National Association of Social Workers – NJ Chapter
National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section
National Organization for Women of New Jersey
National Organization for Women – Northern New Jersey
Network for Responsible Public Policy
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey Highlands American Promise Association
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
New Jersey Policy Perspective
New Jersey Work Environment Council
New Jersey Working Families Alliance
NJ Badass Teachers Association
NJ7 Forward
Our Revolution Essex County NJ
Our United Revolution New Jersey
Pinelands Preservation Alliance
Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey
Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey
RepresentUs/Central New Jersey
Salvation and Social Justice
Seniors for a Democratic Society
South Jersey Women for Progressive Change
STAND Central New Jersey
TriCounty NJ Chapter of American Promise
Unitarian Universalist FaithAction NJ
Westfield 20/20
Women for Progress




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