About that New Jersey Plan…

An argument against "bothersiderism" in this case and, yet again, noting the problem with single seat districts.

As Doug Mataconis noted earlier this week, there is a move in New Jersey to amend the state constitution in regards to districting.  My initial reaction to what I think I know about the plan is negative, but not necessarily for the reasons that I am seeing from various critics, whether it is Doug’s post or the NYT:  Democrats in New Jersey Have a Firm Grip on Power. They Want Even More.

Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are carrying out a power grab in an unusually public fashion: They are seeking to make Republicans a permanent minority by essentially writing gerrymandering into the State Constitution.

Except that this is an inaccurate, or at least an incomplete description (and “power grab” strike me as inflammatory and incorrect).  As a point of clarity, the changes would aid the majority party, not the Democrats specifically (although they are the dominant party  in NJ, to be sure).  That would mean that if the state had a partisan realignment, the proposed reforms would aid the new majority party.  This is not, as we have seen elsewhere, a reform that empowers the minority party and then makes it difficult for the majority to undo the change.

What the proposal does, as I understand it at the moment, is change the amount of influence that the legislature has over the redistricting process (which, in general, I tend to oppose):

Currently, the Republican and Democratic state party chairs each nominate five people to the redistricting board, and the state Supreme Court selects someone to serve as the tiebreaker. Mr. Murphy is closely allied with the chairman of the Democratic state party, John Currie, giving the governor sway over some of the commission’s members.

The redistricting plan would increase the size of the commission by two members, to 13, and state party chairs would only be allowed two nominees each. The Senate president, Senate minority leader, Assembly speaker and Assembly minority leader would each get to nominate two members, at least one of which must be a state legislator.

And, more importantly,

It overhauls the makeup of a redistricting committee to give more power to legislative leaders. It also establishes a “fairness test” requiring district maps to reflect how major political parties perform in statewide elections for governor, senator and president.

In other words, it would create a situation that would attempt to guarantee that the party that won the statewide popular vote (as measured by vote share in executive elections) would have districts drawn in way that would be reflective of that majority sentiment. As a general principal, I do not object to the goal here, which would be for the legislature to reflect the state’s general partisan preferences rather than allowing, as in Wisconsin, for the party with a minority vote share to control the majority of the legislature (although I would prefer a measure linked to the legislative vote directly).

I would note this is only “enshrining gerrymandering” in the sense that any process of district-drawing is gerrymandering to one degree or another unless it is random, especially any system that empowers partisan politicians to influence the drawing of lines.  I cannot stress enough that practically any system of single district drawing is the enshrinement of gerrymandering.  This is, to a large degree, why SCOTUS has a hard time ruling on an neutral process to draw lines.  Every system of line drawing is biased in some fashion–which is part of the problem with single seat districts.

More importantly, this is not an example of “both sides do it” and it is lazy journalism (or, at least, significant misunderstanding) for the NYT and others to suggest it is.

  1. In Wisconsin, as with North Carolina a couple of years ago, the party losing executive power used a lame duck session to take power away from the in-coming, opposite party executive.
  2. In WI the party initiating the change has already used its power to enhance its representation in the state legislature relative to its vote share.  Worse, that party will maintain a large legislative majority despite losing the statewide majority vote in the 2018 elections.

In contradistinction, the New Jersey Democratic party (the majority party) is seeking to have legislative electoral outcomes reflect the majority sentiment of the state’s voters.  While their chosen method may not be my preference, that is a substantial difference from what happened in Wisconsin. Moreover, this is not a lame duck action on the way out the door, the General Assembly term is from 2018-2020. There will be no change to the state Senate, either (next Senate election is set for 2021).

They are acting now because, as the NYT notes,

Democratic leaders are digging into the state’s laws and using a provision allowing an amendment that passes the state legislature with a simple majority in two consecutive calendar years to be placed on the ballot.

So, procedurally they need to vote before the end of the year and then they can vote again next year (but it will be the same legislators).  BTW, I object to the Times making it sound like this is untoward.  Either the provision is in the state’s constitution, or it isn’t.  That the provision is not used frequently (and I am not sure if that is even true, but is implied) does not constitute “digging” and the author of the piece appears to not have just looked at the state’s constitution, as the provision in question is not in the “state’s laws” (which would make no sense) but it, rather, in Article IX of the NJ constitution:

1. Any specific amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed in the Senate or General Assembly. At least twenty calendar days prior to the first vote thereon in the house in which such amendment or amendments are first introduced, the same shall be printed and placed on the desks of the members of each house. Thereafter and prior to such vote a public hearing shall be held thereon. If the proposed amendment or amendments or any of them shall be agreed to by three-fifths of all the members of each of the respective houses, the same shall be submitted to the people. If the same or any of them shall be agreed to by less than three-fifths but nevertheless by a majority of all the members of each of the respective houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be referred to the Legislature in the next legislative year; and if in that year the same or any of them shall be agreed to by a majority of all the members of each of the respective houses, then such amendment or amendments shall be submitted to the people.

So, regardless of whatever else one wants to say about this proposal, it is not the same as what we just saw in Wisconsin.

Now, politically this looks bad for the Democrats nationally because it fosters bothsiderism, but not because the actions are actually equivalent.  And, of course, there are a host of other, better ways to try and guarantee legislatures are representative of their states, but that is the topic of many past (for example) and future posts.

I will look further into this plan, but based  on what I have seen, most reporting and commentary surrounding it are off the mark in terms of what is being proposed and especially how it compares to Wisconsin.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for weighing in on this. I had seen Doug’s earlier commentary on this, and while there were aspects that felt off about this, there were other parts of this, like the majority aspects that felt similar to things you have been working about.

  2. When I mentioned Wisconsin in my original post, I wasn’t referring to the lame duck legislation that has been the subject of recent controversy, but to the redistricting issues that were the subject of the case that was before the Supreme Court last term along those from North Carolina and Maryland (which of course was a case of the state’s Democrats redrawing district lines to eliminate a formerly Republican district in Western Maryland).

    Additionally, one of the primary objections to what is going on in New Jersey, as the NY Times Editorial on the subject notes, is the fact that state Democrats are seeking to enshrine a redistricting plan that would quite obviously benefit their party into the state Constitution, which makes it far more difficult for a future legislature to change than it would be if the redistricting plan were adopted as legislation. Additionally, the proposal would change the composition of the panel that proposes district lines to make it more partisan than it presently is, thus moving it away from the Arizona model of an independent non-partisan commission responsible for redistricting rather than the legislature.

    As I note in my post, the fortunate thing is that even the Democratic Governor opposes this rather naked power grab by state Democratic leaders who have been in power too long and, quite honestly, produced very little of value for the Garden State while consolidating their power with moves like this.

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  3. @Doug Mataconis: I think that the NYT is trying way too hard there to be seen as fair. Regardless of anything else, the actions in NJ are the majority making sure the majority is in charge, while in WI it was the minority making sure the minority was in charge.

    This is very different and should not be treated as the same thing.

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  4. @Steven L. Taylor:

    “the majority making sure the majority is in charge”

    Seems to me more like the current majority making sure it stays in power as long as possible by making it harder for opposition parties to win seats at the Congressional or, more importantly, state legislative, level.

    More importantly, given the history of politics in New Jersey it seems like another way for state Democrats to ensure that the money keeps pouring in their direction. This has been going on in the Garden State since I was in High School, probably longer than that.

    To pretend that only Republicans engage in this sort of activity is to deny reality, IMO.

  5. @Doug Mataconis: First, note that I am not defending this plan. But, my lack of support doesn’t change the fact that these are not the same kinds of situations.

    Drawing districts to make the minority the majority is different than drawing lines to make sure the majority is the majority.

    More importantly, given the history of politics in New Jersey it seems like another way for state Democrats to ensure that the money keeps pouring in their direction. This has been going on in the Garden State since I was in High School, probably longer than that.

    This strikes me as superfluous to the conversation at hand.

    To pretend that only Republicans engage in this sort of activity is to deny reality, IMO.

    I am not pretending anything, nor am I making universal statements about the parties (indeed, I think that trying to make this into a broad “both sides do it” discussion is part of the problem). I am noting rather key differences between the WI and NJ situations.

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  6. Tony W says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    To pretend that only Republicans engage in this sort of activity is to deny reality, IMO.

    You may be correct, if for no other reason than the fact that Republicans need to engage in this sort of activity in order to retain power. They cannot do so on their ideas, so they find other ways to win.

    As the popular vote for president in 2016 shows, Democrats have a solid majority nationally and within many “Red” states as well.

  7. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Drawing districts to make the minority the majority is different than drawing lines to make sure the majority is the majority.

    Except that it seems apparent to me that what New Jersey Democrats are doing is attempting to concoct a scheme whereby they can ensure that the majority is, in effect, a permanent majority by dividing up areas of the state that contain significant Republican majorities, specifically in the western and southern parts of the state, and placing them in districts where Democrats predominate.

    And, again, we get back to the point that they are doing so by attempting to adopt a process that will make it hard for legislators (or voters) to change the redistricting method in the future by enshrining it in the state Constitution. It’s this last point that many critics, including the Times editors and the state’s Democratic Governor, are pointing to as the worst aspect of the plan. Rather than making the redistricting process “fairer” they are seeking to lock into stone a redistricting plan that, for the foreseeable future, will ensure that they will continue to hold power.

    To think that the leaders of the General Assembly and State Senate in Trenton have any concern at all about fairness is, IMO at least, to ignore reality.

  8. @Steven L. Taylor:

    And also……

    This strikes me as superfluous to the conversation at hand.

    I have to disagree. Looking at this proposed redistricting scheme in a vacuum and outside the context of how politics has worked in the Garden State for decades is, in my opinion at least, a mistake. As I said earlier, this is part and parcel of how things have operated in New Jersey since I was in High School up there, And the fact that it’s resulted in significant parts of the state where it is nearly impossible for opposition parties to compete is a demonstration of how well this consolidation of power has succeeded notwithstanding the anomalous election for Governor that has seen a Republican victory.

    This isn’t just about process, it’s also about results and about whether voters are really being given the opportunity to enact real change, especially at the state legislative level, when they find themselves locked in districts that make it virtually impossible to unseat long-standing incumbents more concerned with lining their own pockets and helping their political allies than fixing the many problems the state faces.

    Whether this is exactly like Wisconsin, or North Carolina, or whereever is perhaps a relevant academic debate but when it comes to results it is clear that the votes are not being treated fairly, and there’s very little they can do about it.

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  9. Ben Wolf says:

    In contradistinction, the New Jersey Democratic party (the majority party) is seeking to have legislative electoral outcomes reflect the majority sentiment of the state’s voters.

    Only an academic could write this with a straight face. A group of politicians moving to give themselves greater power cannot, in any meaningful sense of the word “democracy”, be anything other than authoritarian. It is centralizing additional power into the hands of the people running the machinery of the state.

    When someone who claims the status of “democracy expert” tries to argue that anti-democratic activities are democratic in outcome, it demonstrates how useless the field of political science has become.

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  10. gVOR08 says:

    More importantly, this is not an example of “both sides do it” and it is lazy journalism (or, at least, significant misunderstanding) for the NYT and others to suggest it is.

    Everybody talks about the bias of the MSM. They are biased, and you’ve nicely put your finger on their real bias. They need to peddle papers. That means they have to fill column inches, and they’ll generally fill them as cheaply and quickly as they can. Horse race reporting is easy, real understanding takes time and money.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Ben Wolf: Seems to me that you’re working very hard to misunderstand the simple point Dr. Taylor is making.

  12. @Doug Mataconis:

    Except that it seems apparent to me that what New Jersey Democrats are doing is attempting to concoct a scheme whereby they can ensure that the majority is, in effect, a permanent majority by dividing up areas of the state that contain significant Republican majorities, specifically in the western and southern parts of the state, and placing them in districts where Democrats predominate.

    Keeping in mind, again, the I am not in favor of this plan, but am seeking to clarify.

    If the fairness standard is linked to the popular vote of the governor, for example, the Dems can’t manufacture a majority because there is no way to adjust the state outcomes. If a Republican won the governorship, which is not impossible based on fairly recent history, that would affect the districts in a way that would help Republicans. Or, that is how I understand the mechanism.

    It is convoluted, and I don’t support it. But it is a different category from other “power grabs” in other states wherein the Reps actually have minority support, yet have construed the rules or used lame duck sessions to keep power.

    It matters when we talk about these things that we don’t lazily conflate them.

    And the underlying point that no one in this thread has addressed: a scheme like this just helps lay bare that any system of partisan districting is gerrymandering. All line drawing helps someone or some party.

  13. @Ben Wolf: I am not defending the NJ Plan. I am trying to draw distinctions where many commenteres and reporters seem to be wanting to make simplistic claims to feed the both sides approach. Mostly I think the NYT wants to look fair.

    And yes, as an expert on democratic institutions, I think that the plan in NJ is more democratic than what has unfolded in WI (by far, in fact). I am not endorsing the NJ plan (as the second sentence of the original posts notes and I crticitized giving the legislature more power). I am trying to draw what are clear distinctions.

    At the moment, whether it is voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering (such as in WI), using lame duck sessions to manipulate powers (NC, WI, MI), and so forth, there is a clear anti-democratic trend in GOP (not to mention that most of the anti-majoritarian elements of our system, the Senate, the EC, the small House, single seat districts themselves all favor the GOP).

    I don’t think that, as I understand it at the moment, the NJ plan fits that category and for commenters and journalists to treat it as belonging in that camp just dilutes the overall discussion.

    Put another way: I am less concerned with gerrymandering in a state in which the gerrymandering helps the majority party (such as state of residence) than I am in which gerrymandering helps the minority party win a majority of seats.

    These are both problems. One problem is worse than the other. Majorities being enhanced artificially is a distortion of democratic outcomes, minorities being elevated to majority status is an affront to democracy, if not the destruction of democracy.

  14. @Doug Mataconis:

    This isn’t just about process, it’s also about results and about whether voters are really being given the opportunity to enact real change, especially at the state legislative level, when they find themselves locked in districts that make it virtually impossible to unseat long-standing incumbents more concerned with lining their own pockets and helping their political allies than fixing the many problems the state faces.

    Whether this is exactly like Wisconsin, or North Carolina, or whereever is perhaps a relevant academic debate but when it comes to results it is clear that the votes are not being treated fairly, and there’s very little they can do about it.

    The remedy to all of this is significant electoral reform. Let’s go to rank choice voting in multi-member districts (or, at least, increase the size of the House so that districts are more representative).

    And again: to say that NJ, WI, and NC are all the same is to say that the flu, colon cancer, and lymphoma are all diseases. Categorization matters in terms of treatment and effects.

  15. @gVOR08: I think this is a combo of the easy horse-race narrative coupled with the NYT (and others) wanting to be seen as fair in face of criticism that they are in the tank for Dems. I think, too, it is a lack of sophistication on this kind of topic.

    I wanted to call attention to it, because I think that what is happening in places like WI really does have long-term potential to damage democracy (and arguably already has in the state). If we lump these things together, it will make addressing them harder.

  16. @Steven L. Taylor:

    to say that NJ, WI, and NC are all the same is to say that the flu, colon cancer, and lymphoma are all diseases

    They are the same to the extent that they represent the party that has political power — whether that party is a “majority” or “minority” party — trying to use that power to consolidate their power by making changes to the process that will benefit them and harm their adversaries.

    One final thought about the New Jersey plan. I honestly don’t see why the statewide balance between Republicans and Democrats should be considered a fair basis upon which to draw lines in individual districts. As I explained in a comment above there are areas of New Jersey — specifically western counties such as Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon and souther counties such as Burington, Monmouth, and Ocean counties — where Republicans continue to have strongholds. Granted, these are not the same kind of Republicans you’d find in Alabama or some other red state, but they are generally more Republican than other parts of the state. Given that, shouldn’t the districts in those areas be reflective of the balance in those areas rather than the state as a whole considering the fact that the blue counties account for a far larger part of the population.

    That seems like it would be the same thing as saying that districts in a red state like South Carolina should be drawn to reflect the national popular vote rather than the statewide vote.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Are you sure that your real objection isn’t that the ‘wrong” majority is going to be in charge? That’s what you sound like to me, and I don’t even think the proposal is a good idea.

  18. @Doug Mataconis:

    They are the same to the extent that they represent the party that has political power — whether that party is a “majority” or “minority” party — trying to use that power to consolidate their power by making changes to the process that will benefit them and harm their adversaries.

    It is radically different for the minority party to be in power versus the majority party. If you don’t see that, this is the basis of our disagreement (and, I would argue, the linchpin of what I consider your misunderstanding of the entire topic).

  19. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I understand the topic quite well, thanks.

    My point is that consolidation of power in the manner NJ Democrats are seeking to do is unacceptable regardless of whether they are a “majority” or a “minority.” And, again, it should be blindingly obvious that their motives — making it more difficult or their political opponents — are not all that dissimilar from the motives of the legislators in Wisconsin. The fact that they might represent an electoral majority doesn’t make what they’re trying to do proper.

  20. @Doug Mataconis: Are you operating under the assumption that the plan would cause all districts to reflect the state executive totals? There would have to be a certain number of competitive districts and still some that would clearly be Republican (likely in the area you are referring to).

    I read a Princeton Gerrymandering Project report yesterday that noted the current map would be pretty much in conformity with the proposal already. As such, not like the other states in comparison at all.

  21. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    If that’s the conclusion you’re reaching then you’re quite obviously reading what I write through ideological blinders of your own.

    Whether it is a majority party or not, there’s no way to justify what the legislature in NJ is trying to do here.

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  22. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Based on what I’ve read, it certainly seems to me to be the case that NJ Democrats are trying to do something they’ve been unable to do until now, and which they’ve tried to do repeatedly in the past — dissipate the Republican populations in the west and south among blue-er districts to such an extent that it becomes even harder for Republicans to win, especially at the state legislative level.

  23. @Doug Mataconis:

    I understand the topic quite well, thanks.

    Ok, let me ask this: why do you think that the portions of the state with significant Republican strongholds will lose representation?

  24. @Doug Mataconis:

    there’s no way to justify what the legislature in NJ is trying to do here.

    What is your definition of what they are trying to do?

  25. @Doug Mataconis:

    Based on what I’ve read

    Part of my underlying point is that most of the journalistic accounts and commentary on this has been flawed. As such, I think your conclusions may be unduly influenced.

    While I fully allow I may be mistaken in my understanding, but the reality is I likely know more about this kind of thing and its influences than the reporters and op/ed writers you have been reading.

  26. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Because Democrats, with their increased control over the commission that draws district lines, will use that power to split up Republican districts so as to dilute the impact of Republicans votes.

    As you know, this is an old game, and they know exactly what they’re doing. Like I said, the idea that they give a damn about fairness is one that has to ignore political reality.

  27. @Doug:

    From the proposed amendment:

    c. The Commission shall only certify a plan to establish legislative districts that ensures fair representation such that each of the two major political parties has an equal number of districts more favorable to that party. A district shall be more favorable to a political party if the percentage of total votes received in that district in all Statewide general elections by that party over the preceding decade for the offices of United States President, United States Senator, and Governor exceeds the percentage of total votes that party received in the average district in the plan, weighting each district equally.

    d. The Commission shall only certify a plan to establish legislative districts that ensures that at least 25 percent of all districts are competitive districts, which shall mean a district that is more favorable to either major political party by no more than five percentage points of the average district in the plan. For each competitive district in which the percentage of total votes for a major political party exceeds that party’s percentage of total votes in the average district, there shall be a corresponding district in which that party’s percentage of total votes is less than the other major party’s percentage of total votes in the average district by approximately the same percentage.

    Under this plan, I do not see how the Republican parts of the state you are concerned about are left out.

  28. Quite frankly, I a not sure how paragraph “c” even accomplishes a pro-majority party outcome. (Although the bit about the executive vote statewide provides some room to maneuver).

  29. In any case, we seem to keep dancing around the same topics but not making any progress here, perhaps because we’re coming at it from different perspectives.

    For me, it has as much to do with the fact that we’re talking about a state where people who raised families and have lived there all their lives can’t afford to live there anymore because tax rates continue to increase for ostensibly no practical purpose. This is due in no small part to the fact that power, especially at the legislative level, has been in the hands of same people since as long as I can remember. (The State Senator who represents the town I grew up in has been in power since I was in college, to pick just one example). When I see that “majority” party using its power to consolidate yet more power, I don’t see fairness, I see corruption for the sake of cashing in and spreading the wealth to favored interests.

    There’s nothing about this redistricting plan that would change that and, indeed, it seems guaranteed to make things worse since it would keep the same party and the same people in power and make it far more difficult to change the process by which power is divided in the state.

  30. To quote the Princeton study I noted in passing above: “the current district map is already nearly compliant with the bill as now written”

    So, as far as “power grabs” go, this is a pretty lame one.

  31. The Princeton paper also outlines ways in which both parties could still manipulate the map to their advantage if the amendment passes.

    Again, I am not in favor of this amendment, but it is wholly a different category from what has been going on in WI and elsewhere.

  32. @Doug Mataconis:

    In any case, we seem to keep dancing around the same topics but not making any progress here, perhaps because we’re coming at it from different perspectives.

    For me, it has as much to do with the fact that we’re talking about a state where people who raised families and have lived there all their lives can’t afford to live there anymore because tax rates continue to increase for ostensibly no practical purpose. This is due in no small part to the fact that power, especially at the legislative level, has been in the hands of same people since as long as I can remember.

    You appear to be generically unhappy with politics in NJ (fair enough), but your original post and subsequent comments use that dissatisfaction to unduly influence your view of this plan (which, again, I am not defending).

    I have tried to demonstrate why I have the position I do.

    I think it matters because we have a broad, important discussion about the health of US democracy before us and we need to make sure we understand what belongs in that conversation.

  33. BTW, this alone makes it a bad idea:

    The Commission shall only certify a plan to establish legislative districts that ensures fair representation such that each of the two major political parties has an equal number of districts more favorable to that party.

    Never enshrine that kind of specificity into a constitution.

  34. @Steven L. Taylor:

    And my primary objection to the plan is the fact that it seeks to enshrine this plan in the State Constitution. The only reason to do this is to make it more difficult for a subsequent legislature to make changes. That’s called consolidation of power.

    Even if it could be demonstrated that this plan were guaranteed to be fair, which I don’t think is possible, I would still oppose it for this reason.

  35. steve says:

    Doug- Living next door to New Jersey, hiring people who live there and work in PA and running a practice in New Jersey, I keep finding that people who live there are generally happy with the trade offs. From the outside it looks to me like their taxes are too high, and heaven knows they complain about it too, but they don’t leave very often. I tell New Jersey jokes, and they tell Pennsylvania jokes.

    Steve

  36. @Doug Mataconis: Well, we have been in agreement from the beginning that we do not support the plan.

    The disagreement has been in the categorization of the plan and the severity thereof.

  37. @Steven L. Taylor: And I think your characterization of what it would do is incorrect and derived from incorrect reporting. My main argument is about an accurate representation of what the plan does as well as, and perhaps most important of all, the fact that it is substantially different from what is happening in WI.

  38. One last observation: what this plan does is underscore the problems with single seat districting, which is often not representative and is amenable to fairly easy manipulation. It mostly just deepens existing problems.

    As such, this is just another reason to want significant electoral reform.

  39. Well, for what its worth, the legislature has shelved a plan to vote on the proposal. Since tomorrow is the final day of the legislature for the year, this makes it extremely unlikely that the plan would get before voters next year and equally unequally that the plan will survive in its current form beyond the current session of the legislature.

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Actually, I see Doug’s fear just fine. In my first comment on Doug’s original post, I noted that I thought the proposal could end up leading to the same kinds of abuse as other Gerrymandering events do because people–particularly political actors–tend toward evil self-serving ends when given the opportunity to attain them. Doug is simply further down the slope than I am. I guess he knows who the people of NJ are and is afraid of Republicans there losing whatever grip they have.

    Considering that “both sides do it” it’s not an unreasonable assumption on his part, but it does reinforce my conjecture above. Maybe I’m just too cynical, though.