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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Redistricting New Jersey

New Jersey has lost a house seat so all of the districts in the state will have to be redrawn. When there is a loss of a House seat, unless one Congressman chooses to retire, two incumbents will have to run against each other. Will it be two congressmen from opposite parties or two from the same one and if so, which one? Unless outrageous gerrymandering takes place, where the congressmen live as opposed to where the people now live often dictates the answer. As was the case with Illinois, there are three Republican congressmen who live too close to each other. Both Houses of the state legislature are controlled by the Democrats so they will have to approve the map drawn by an independent commission. Unlike Illinois, New Jersey has a Republican governor, the infamous Governor Christie. Still all he can do is veto any plan that is totally biased in favor of the Democrats. First let's look at what the districts look like now:

Map of Congressional districts in New Jersey as of 2010

As you can tell from the map, these districts have been gerrymandered at some point. The problem is that each district has an incumbent who wants to be protected and in this case, the incumbent Democrats can lean on the Democrats in the state legislature to do just that. Therefore the new map must protect those incumbent Democrats to get passed by the state legislature in the first place. When a congressman lives at one end of such a district, there is no way to cut the pie and not have the result look fairly gerrymandered. Of course, the same is not true for Republican incumbents. However, there is no need to sock it to the Republicans because the geography already dictates that they are going to lose a seat. In the following map, the white dots show where the congressmen currently live:

Map of proposed new congressiona districts for New Jersey

As you can see the purple and tan districts have three white dots which represent three incumbent congressmen. There is no way without horrible gerrymandering to prevent two of these three from running against each other. Naturally a Democrat controlled legislature has no reason to help these three Republicans out. The fact that each district has to cover more territory is bound to shore up the incumbents of both parties. The Republicans have one incumbent, Congressman Runyan, who is on the endangered list and is in the orange district. The Democrats have two such congressmen, Congressman Pallone in the dark red district and Congressman Holt in the bright green district.

Except for the bright blue district, all of the districts in the lower part of the state are in Republican territory. There is no way to weaken the three Republican incumbents with endangering either Congressman Andrews in the bright blue district or the two already endangered Democrats north of the Republican area. Thus the commission might as well shore up all the congressmen in the six southern districts and let the geography kill off one of the Republicans in the northern part as is suggested in our proposed map. We never split a county subdivision and still got close enough to the required equal population as the following table demonstrates:

Incumbents 2010 Population Deviation % Deviation
New Congressional Districts Figures
LoBiondo (R)
732,109 -549 +0.0749%
Andrews (D)
733,581 +923 +0.1260%
Runyan (R)
732,907 +249 +0.0340%
Smith (R)
733,625 +1,057 +0.1443%
Garrett - Felinghausen (R)
731,889 -769 -0.0965%
Pallone (D)
733,275 +707 +0.0061%
Lance (R)
731,305 -1,263 -0.1500%
Pascrell (D)
731,559 -1,099 +0.1384%
Rothman (D)
732,431 -227 -0.0310%
Payne (D)
732,119 -539 -0.0736%
Holt (D)
731,832 -826 -0.1124%
Sires (D)
734,722 +2,064 +0.2817%
Total/Average 8,791,894 +/-856 +/-0.1168%