Letter to the Editor: N.J. Ballot Question #3 May Be Unconstitutional

parsippany focus

parsippany focusDear Editor:

In an obvious attempt to preserve the existing voting districts in New Jersey for as long as possible, the authors of N.J. Ballot Question #3 drafted a proposed constitutional amendment that may have unintended consequences and in fact, maybe unconstitutional.

By law, the voting districts in New Jersey must be redrawn after each census. Ballot Question #3 anticipates that the results of the 2020 census may be very late this year and proposes to change the state constitution permanently to say that if census data arrives after February 15, the state must delay drawing a new map for TWO years, and use the old voting districts during that period. On paper, the proposal may seem reasonable, but in reality, it is fundamentally flawed.

Consider what would have happened if this amendment existed after the 2010 census when New Jersey lost one of its congressional seats. According to the amendment, the 13 voting districts that existed before the 2010 census would then be electing only 12 representatives. Clearly, the math doesn’t work, and the courts would have to be involved.

Population-wise, New Jersey is not a growing state. It is very possible that we could lose another congressional seat after the 2020 census. If not in 2020, then almost certainly we would lose another seat ten years from now. Under the terms of the amendment, 12 districts would then be voting for 11 congressional seats (which district doesn’t get a representative?).

Ballot Question #3 is a permanent solution to a one-time problem. Passing a totally unnecessary amendment that would result in an imbalance between districts and representatives would require court intervention to resolve the dilemma, and would be an embarrassment to the state of New Jersey. The amendment should actually be invalidated and withdrawn prior to Election Day. In case that doesn’t happen, vote “NO” on Question #3.

Bob Venezia