By Kip Bateman
New Jerseyans ought to pay attention to critical issues with Public Query No. 3, which seems on the poll for the Common Election.
The poll query asks voters in the event that they approve amending the New Jersey Structure to vary when new legislative districts are created if federal census knowledge is delayed subsequent yr.
This proposed constitutional modification shouldn’t be a measured response that’s tailor-made for the only real function of addressing the extenuating circumstances offered by the coronavirus.
It’s actually about defending incumbents and the bulk social gathering’s 20 years of management of the Legislature.
The February fifteenth deadline for receiving census knowledge that triggers the provisions of this measure might permit redistricting to be delayed regularly in future many years. That’s utterly pointless.
The New Jersey Legislature already has the statutory and constitutional authority to vary any dates as wanted to accommodate delays in our receipt of federal census knowledge.
The truth is, there have been a number of instances in current reminiscence after we acquired census knowledge past that February fifteenth date however we have been in a position to make use of present instruments to finish legislative redistricting and maintain our elections utilizing the brand new maps with out the unreasonable delays that this proposal would permit.
When Gov. Phil Murphy moved this yr’s main elections from June to July by government order, he demonstrated that altering election dates to handle emergent wants is feasible.
We will move easy legal guidelines subsequent yr as wanted to vary any deadlines or dates which are a part of the redistricting or election course of, together with the date of the final election itself.
There’s no cause we will’t make the most of that functionality subsequent yr to regulate any components of the election and redistricting calendar as wanted.
Addressing any census points that method would be sure that the core precept of “one individual, one vote” that serves as the premise of our consultant democracy continues to be upheld with out unreasonable delays.
Taking that method can be a lot much less excessive than amending the New Jersey Structure in a method that would perpetually permit elections to be held utilizing outdated maps based mostly on outdated inhabitants knowledge.
The sponsors of the poll measure declare it’s needed to permit us to get a full and correct census rely for New Jersey, but it surely merely doesn’t try this.
Nothing within the proposed constitutional modification would change how the U.S. Census Bureau counts our New Jersey inhabitants. The method and timeline for conducting the federal census are set by Congress, not the New Jersey Structure.
Approving the general public query wouldn’t change federal legislation, nor wouldn’t it influence the ultimate census outcomes.
And let’s be utterly clear: the proposed constitutional modification wouldn’t influence our illustration in Congress or how a lot help we get from Washington, as some have disingenuously argued. Any claims on the contrary are merely unfaithful.
As an alternative, the constitutional modification – if enacted – would assure that the census rely New Jersey receives subsequent yr shouldn’t be applied in a brand new legislative map that precisely displays inhabitants adjustments till 2024. That’s not somewhat factor.
That’s precisely why a wide range of organizations from the League of Girls Voters to the NAACP have warned that this proposed constitutional modification would delay by years the power to develop minority communities to realize the honest illustration they deserve.
A greater method is to make the most of the pliability we have already got below present legislation to regulate dates subsequent yr as wanted.
That’s what the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, together with different good authorities teams which have studied this matter in-depth, have suggested us to do.
They’ve seemed on the steerage New Jersey has been offered by the U.S. Census Bureau and concluded that with some reshuffling of dates, we will undertake a brand new map and maintain legislative elections utilizing that up to date map subsequent yr – as we should always.
It needs to be clear that the proposed constitutional modification is pointless, and it’s excessive. It’s not about equity or accuracy. It’s about sustaining management.
It’s shameful that anybody would attempt to use the quilt of a public well being emergency to attempt to amend our New Jersey Structure in a method that’s so overtly political.
New Jerseyans ought to think about these critical issues earlier than voting on Public Query #3.
State Sen. Kip Bateman represents the sixteenth Legislative District, which incorporates components of Mercer, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Somerset counties.
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