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Proposal to amend state constitution must have bipartisan opposition
The partisan practice of manipulating district lines is an undemocratic crack in the foundation of America since the nation was first formed. From the rotten boroughs in England, to Patrick Henry attempting to gerrymander James Madison out of Virginia, to the cracking and packing of 2010, redistricting is one of the oldest continued abuses of power in our democratic experiment.
The democratic necessity of redistricting and reapportionment must be rid of the manipulative influence of incentivized legislators through neutral standards. Rather than neutrally designing districts around real communities, the reapportionment process that occurs every decade undermines the democratic value of fair elections, diminishes voting power and disenfranchises minority groups.
Democrats in Trenton have quietly grabbed the chisel of gerrymandering and resuscitated a proposal to modify the redistricting process. The changes would shift the drawing of districts to be based on statewide election results over the last 10 years and restructure the commission in charge of the process. In a state where there are approximately 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, Democrats are attempting to further cement their hold on New Jersey’s governing bodies. If approved by the legislature, the proposal (SCR152, ACR205) will place a ballot question asking for voter approval to amending the state's constitution.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Report released a study asserting that the amendment would "make it possible for either Democrats or Republicans to commit a gerrymander under the radar" and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law suggested this could "open the door to gerrymandering." The undemocratic concentrating of political power demands confrontation from those of all party affiliations. Placing the state and democratic values above partisan politics is fundamental.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) has publicly affirmed his opposition to the measures of his party and has claimed that the changes do not pass the democratic tests of our nation, according to tien thuong mien phi 2019NJ Advance Media.
"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," Murphy said at a news conference earlier this month.
Sue Altman, a representative of South Jersey Progressive Women for Change, voiced a similar sentiment when making the public statement that they will “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."
While redistricting has negatively impacted the democratic system as a whole, the damages inflicted by racial and partisan manipulation have been significantly directed at minority groups. Richard Smith, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), warned that the changes would "virtually ensure the voting power of communities of color will be diluted for decades to come," according to NJ Advance Media.
There cannot be a double standard in which Democrats refuse to uphold their claimed democratic values. For the party to posit itself at the moral center, its actions must be reflective.
If the state is to revamp the redistricting process, amendments must be righteous and just in the progression and protection of rights and values. Nonpartisan independent commissions ought to be utilized to draw just district maps and algorithms can ensure fair compactness.
The undemocratic amendment proposed by Democratic leadership demands bipartisan opposition. Gerrymandering is not exclusively Left or Right and requires the public to hold both sides accountable in the refusal to politically manipulate the redistricting process.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.