On Wednesday, the New Jersey Legislative Redistricting Coalition unveiled a legislative districting map that they claim will increase chances for minorities to be elected to the state legislature. (“Minority coalition releases redistricting map,” PolitickerNJ, March 23, 2011.) However, there is one word to describe their map: gerrymandering.
Viewing all of the fascinating shapes that the group conjured for the districts on their map, it appears that they made no attempt, whatsoever, to conform the map to three important requirements of the New Jersey Constitution:
- Contiguity, and
- Not dividing counties more than necessary.
The most blatant violation on their map is the Sixth District, which slithers its way from Brigantine on the Atlantic, to Haddon, right next to Camden. At most points, the borders of the district, from north to south, consist of only a single town. Along the way, in order to connect the towns from the Atlantic, to almost the Delaware, it picks up Washington Township, in Burlington County, a very large town in the Pine Barrens, but, in which, only 687 people reside. There are no other towns within the district to the north or south of Washington before it connects with Hammonton on the west and Galloway and Port Republic on the east.
The group’s Eleventh District presents another classic example of gerrymandering. It begins in Matawan and Old Bridge on the Raritan Bay, but ends in Mansfield in Burlington County, only miles from the Delaware River. In another intriguing twist, it separates Matawan from Aberdeen Township, included in the map’s Thirteenth District. Most residents of Matawan and Aberdeen, which together form the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, would consider this division to be bizarre. Although these are the most brazen examples of gerrymandering, numerous others exist throughout the map.
Furthermore, the map splits a number of counties into more districts than allowed by the New Jersey Constitution. For example, Bergen County, with around 905,000 people, should be split into no more than five districts under the New Jersey Constitution. However, the Coalition’s map splits Bergen into seven districts. Middlesex should be constitutionally split into four districts, but the Coalition’s map also splits the county into seven. Monmouth ideally should be split into three districts. The Coalition map: five. Again, these are just a few examples.
Overall, the district lines drawn by the New Jersey Legislative Redistricting Coalition are so absurd that their map should not receive any consideration by the New Jersey Apportionment Commission. The people of New Jersey will no longer tolerate a gerrymandered map. Let’s follow the New Jersey Constitution. Doing so will help assure that the votes of everyone in New Jersey will count. It will give all of our state’s citizens, including minorities, the opportunity to choose responsive representatives in fair elections.