New Jersey Redistricting: Implications for 2012 and Beyond

On Friday, New Jersey’s bipartisan redistricting commission officially approved the state’s new congressional districts. The commission, which convened on June 15, finished the redistricting process well in advance of the January 17 due date. Overall, the commission’s plan favors the GOP, likely reducing the number of Democratic districts while strengthening Republican districts in the southern parts of the state.

On Friday, New Jersey’s bipartisan redistricting commission officially approved the state’s new congressional districts. The commission, which convened on June 15, finished the redistricting process well in advance of the January 17 due date. Overall, the commission’s plan favors the GOP, likely reducing the number of Democratic districts while strengthening Republican districts in the southern parts of the state.

The commission split along party lines, with the six Republican commissioners voting for the plan and the six Democratic commissioners voting against it. The commission’s chairman, John Farmer, Jr., cast the tie-breaking ballot, making the vote 7-6 in favor of the Republican map.

New Jersey’s population grew more slowly over the last decade than the populations of other states, so the state lost one House seat during the reapportionment process last year. As a result, the redistricting commission had to reduce the number of districts from thirteen to twelve, which guaranteed that two incumbents would be pitted against each other.

Currently, those two incumbents are Congressmen Steve Rotham (D) and Scott Garrett (R). The new map combines the former 8th and 9th districts and adds a section of the two to Congressman Garrett’s 5th district. This section includes Representative Rotham’s current hometown, Fair Lawn. This incumbent matchup in the 5th district solidly favors Congressman Garrett, as he retains nearly all his constituents while Congressman Rotham keeps only a small portion of his. The largely rural 5th district has historically leaned Republican, supporting McCain over Obama 54%-45% in 2008 and Bush over Kerry 57%-43% in 2004[1]. If this faceoff were to take place in 2012, Representative Garrett would likely win, reducing the number of Democratic incumbents in New Jersey from seven to six.

A matchup between Representatives Garrett and Rotham will likely not occur, however. Congressman Rotham announced yesterday that he plans to move from Fair Lawn, which the commission’s plan places in the new 5th district, to the new 9th district (a combination of the former 8th and 9th districts). If Rotham moves, he will be running in 2012 against Congressman Bill Pascrell (D), who represents the former 8th district. A 2012 matchup between Pascrell and Rotham would be close since both are Democrats and since the new 9th district includes about an equal portion of each of the two Congressmen’s current constituents. Regardless of who wins though, the representative in the new 9th district will almost certainly be Democrat, and the representative in the new 5th district will almost certainly be Republican. Representative Rotham’s decision to move effectively guarantees that the House seat that New Jersey lost in reapportionment will come from the Democrats’ ranks.

The map also favors the GOP in the southern parts of the state. Republican Congressman Jon Runyan’s 3rd district no longer includes the heavily Democratic Cherry Hill Township, which seriously increases his chances of reelection in 2012. The Cherry Hill section of Camden County now falls within the already highly Democratic 1st district, reducing the competitiveness of both districts. To make up for this ceded population, the plan gives Runyan’s district sections of Birmingham, Springfield, and Chesterfield, all of which are generally Republican areas.

For more information on New Jersey redistricting, please visit Redistricting In America.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey’s_5th_congressional_district

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