First step toward NJ redistricting overhaul passes muster

 New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon is one of four state lawmakers proposing longer prison terms for possession of  heroin or fentanyl. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon is one of four state lawmakers proposing longer prison terms for possession of heroin or fentanyl. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment that would overhaul the legislative redistricting process.

At least 10 of the 40 legislative districts would have to be described as competitive.

That determination would be based on the total votes cast for Democrat and Republican candidates over nine statewide elections.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, but Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman John McKeon said that doesn’t mean the plan would favor Democrats.

“Who knows who it’s going to favor?” said McKeon, D-Essex. “In one of the elections we know that are going to count toward that number, Gov. Christie won 62-to-38. If you can predict what’s going to happen with the next six elections going forward, you’re all better than I am.”

But it will be five years until the state does another redistricting, and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, questioned why the amendment is being rushed through without more study.

“What districts was it contemplated that this would impact?’ she said. “Why does it use federal elections to determine the competitiveness of our legislative districts?”

The Apportionment Commission that draws up the new districts maps every 10 years would be required to hold three public hearings and certify the boundaries at a public session.

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