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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

New Jersey’s congressional lines are drawn by a 13-member politician commission: by June 15, 2021, the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative chamber) and the chairs of the state’s two major political parties each choose two commissioners, and by July 15, 2021, those twelve commissioners then choose a thirteenth.

The state legislative lines are drawn by a similar, but distinct, 10 or 11-member politician commission. The chairs of the state’s two major political parties each choose five commissioners; if those ten commissioners are not able to agree on a plan, the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court appoints an eleventh member to serve as tiebreaker.  The five Democratic commissioners for the 2020 cycle are listed here; the five Republican commissioners are listed here.

In the 2010 cycle, New Jersey’s congressional redistricting commission adopted congressional plans on Dec. 23, 2011; the state legislative commission adopted state legislative district plans on Apr. 3, 2011.

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

Key Info for 2000 Cycle

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

Website

NJ Redistricting Commission (congressional lines)

NJ Apportionment Commission (state legislative lines)

Primary governing law

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The Latest Updates

Aug 6, 2021
The New Jersey Supreme Court picked the 13th (tiebreaking) member of the state's Congressional Redistricting Commission after the commissioners failed to reach a consensus themselves.
Nov 15, 2020
New Jersey Democrats named their five commissioners for state legislative redistricting, to join the five named by Republicans in April.

Institution

New Jersey’s congressional lines are drawn by a 13-member politician commission, in place since 1995 (and based on a statutory model developed in 1991). The four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative chamber) and the chairs of the state’s two major political parties each choose two commissioners, none of whom may be a congressional member or employee. Those twelve commissioners then choose a thirteenth who has not held any public or party office in New Jersey within the last five years. If the twelve commissioners are not able by July 20 to select a thirteenth member to serve as chair, they will present two names to the state Supreme Court, which will choose the chair by August 10.  The members of the commission are to be appointed with “due consideration to geographic, ethnic and racial diversity.” [N.J. Const. art. II, § II]

If the commission is not able to draw lines by Jan. 18, 2022, it must submit two plans to the state Supreme Court, which will select a winning plan.  [N.J. Const. art. II, § II]

The state legislative lines are drawn by a similar, but distinct, 10 or 11-member politician commission, in place since 1966. The chairs of the state’s two major political parties each choose five commissioners.  In making appointments, the state party chairs are asked to give “due consideration to the representation of the various geographical areas of the State.”  [N.J. Const. art. IV, § III]  The five Democratic commissioners for the 2020 cycle are listed here; the five Republican commissioners are listed here.

If those commissioners are not able to agree on a plan by their deadline, the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court will appoint an eleventh member to serve as tiebreaker.  [N.J. Const. art. IV, § III]

The New Jersey Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to review legal challenges to congressional districts that are filed in state court; there is no such provision with respect to legislative districts. [N.J. Const. art. II, § II, ¶ 7]

Timing

The initial twelve members of the congressional commission must be appointed by June 15, 2021, and the thirteenth member must be selected no later than July 15, 2021 (or, if selected by the Supreme Court, no later than Aug. 10, 2021).  The commission must produce a congressional plan no later than Jan. 18, 2022.  Candidates must file for congressional primary elections by Apr. 4, 2022. [N.J. Const. art. II, § IIN.J. Stat. §§ 19:23-14, -40]

The state legislative commission has a different timeline.  Normally, it must attempt to draw lines no later than one month after receipt of Census data. Since the Census data will arrive after Feb. 15, 2021, the 2021 elections will be held under existing lines, the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court selects an eleventh member within a month of the Census data arriving, and the commission must produce maps by Mar. 1, 2022.  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Apr. 3, 2023. [N.J. Const. art. IV, § III]

New Jersey explicitly prohibits redrawing either congressional or state legislative lines mid-decade. [N.J. Const. art. II, § II, ¶ 8N.J. Const. art. IV, § III, ¶ 3-4]

Public input

New Jersey law requires the congressional redistricting commission to hold at least three public hearings in different parts of the state, and if convenient, to review plans submitted by the public.  [N.J. Const. art. II, § II, ¶ 4]

Though there are no similar constitutional provisions with respect to state legislative districts, the state legislative commission has set a similar hearing schedule in past cycles.

Criteria

Like all states, New Jersey must comply with constitutional equal population requirements; the New Jersey constitution further provides that state legislative districts should be as equally populated as possible. [N.J. Const. art. IV, § II, ¶¶ 1, 3]  New Jersey will adjust census data for state legislative districts in order to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residence before incarceration.  [N.J. Stat. §§ 52:4-1.1 – 1.5]

New Jersey must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

New Jersey law provides additional constraints for state legislative districts. These districts must be contiguous, and must be as nearly compact as possible (compactness will be policed if noncompact districts are pursued for partisan advantage). Municipalities must also be kept intact, except where otherwise required by law. [N.J. Const. art. IV, § II, ¶¶ 1, 3Davenport v. Apportionment Comm’n, 319 A.2d 718 (N.J. 1974); Scrimminger v. Sherwin, 291 A.2d 134 (N.J. 1972)] There is some conflicting law with respect to incumbents’ residences: one case states that deviations from other criteria may not be justified by incumbents’ residences, but another declares that it is a valid state purpose to protect incumbents. [Davenport v. Apportionment Comm’n, 319 A.2d 718 (N.J. 1974); Jackman v. Bodine , 231 A.2d 193 (N.J. 1967)]

State legislative districts are, by definition, nested; one Senator and two Representatives are elected from each district. [N.J. Const. art. IV, § II, ¶ 3Jackman v. Bodine , 231 A.2d 193 (N.J. 1967)]

2010 cycle

New Jersey’s congressional redistricting commission adopted congressional plans on Dec. 23, 2011; the state legislative commission adopted state legislative district plans on Apr. 3, 2011.

The state legislative plan was challenged in state court, and upheld.  [Gonzalez v. N.J. Apportionment Comm’n, 53 A.3d 1230 (N.J. Super. Ct., App. Div. 2012)]

Materials are available here (congressional districts) and here (state legislative districts); maps are available here (congressional districts) and here (state legislative districts).

2000 cycle

New Jersey’s congressional redistricting commission adopted congressional plans on Oct. 26, 2001; the state legislative commission adopted state legislative district plans on Apr. 11, 2001.

The state legislative plan was challenged in both federal and state court, and upheld. [Page v. Bartels, 144 F. Supp. 2d 346 (D.N.J. 2001); Robertson v. Bartels, 148 F. Supp. 2d 443 (D.N.J. 2001), aff’d 534 U.S. 1110 (2002); McNeil v. Legis. Apportionment Comm’n, 828 A.2d 840 (N.J. 2003)]

Materials are available here (congressional districts); maps are available here.

Redistricting Cases in New Jersey

Search all New Jersey Cases >

New Jersey | Federal Trial | Federal Appellate | Congress | Process
Lavergne v. Bryson
Federal court rejecting challenge to the number of congressional seats and subsequent apportionment of districts.
Last Updated Apr 2, 2018
Case Number

No. 3:11-cv-07117 (D.N.J.), No. 12-1171 (3d Cir.), No. 12-778 (S. Ct.):

Cycle 2020
New Jersey | State Trial | State Appellate | State Supreme | State Upper | State Lower | Process
Gonzalez v. NJ Apportionment Comm'n
State court rejected challenge to state legislative maps: alleged unconstitutional process and voter dilution
Last Updated Jan 24, 2013
Case Number

No. L-001173-11 (N.J. Super. Ct., Mercer County), No. C-000069-11 (N.J. Super. Ct., Ocean County), No. A-0747-11T4 & A-0869-11T4 (N.J. Super Ct., App. Div.) & No. C-438 (N.J. Sup. Ct.)

Cycle 2020