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New Jersey Democrats propose gerrymandering plan that would give them a permanent majority


Even some Democrats, including Eric Holder, have said that the plan is unfairly biased toward Democrats

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

New Jersey Democrats have pitched a new redistricting plan that would almost certainly give Democrats a permanent majority in the state's Legislature.

What is gerrymandering?

Due to constantly growing and shifting populations, states periodically have to undergo what's known as redistricting, where lines defining certain voting districts are redrawn. Sometimes part of a populous district will need to be moved into another district, or the borders around an area with a decreasing population will need to be rearranged. When this is done to benefit a certain political party, it's known as gerrymandering.

What happened now?

New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D) sponsored a piece of legislation that would require state-level districts to reflect the partisan leanings of the state in statewide elections for president, governor, and U.S. Senate. While New Jersey as a whole tends to vote Democratic, certain areas, particularly in the southern part of the state, tend to vote Republican. With this new legislation, these areas would have to be redrawn until they voted Democratic. While New Jersey periodically elects Republican governors, it has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1972.

Even some prominent Democrats feel that the plan is too extreme. They argue that it hurts their criticism about Republican gerrymandering in other states. Even former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, the current head of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said that the legislation “fails to live up to those standards" of putting “the interests of the people ahead of politicians," which he said should be a driving force behind any redistricting process.

Greenwald wrote an op-ed in which he defended his legislation, claiming that using statewide elections as the rubric for how districts are drawn was actually an “anti-gerrymandering test."

When would this happen?

In order for this plan to take effect, it will have to be approved by New Jersey voters. Since no Republican members of the state Legislature will support this plan that would almost certainly lead to them being voted out of office en masse in the next election, Democrats plan to use a law that allows them to put a measure on the ballot if it can receive a simple majority in two consecutive calendar years. Since this calendar year is almost over, they could vote for it now and in early 2019, and then put the measure on the ballot in November.

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