[First Reprint]

SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 188

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED DECEMBER 14, 2015

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  NICHOLAS P. SCUTARI

District 22 (Middlesex, Somerset and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Proposes constitutional amendment to change membership of legislative Apportionment Commission; imposes certain requirements on commission for process and legislative district composition.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 21, 2015, with amendments.

  


A Concurrent Resolution proposing to amend Article IV, Section III, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey.

 

     Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of New Jersey (the General Assembly concurring):

 

      1.   The following proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of New Jersey 1[are] is1 hereby agreed to:

 

PROPOSED AMENDMENT

 

     Amend Article IV, Section III, paragraphs 1 and 2 to read as follows:

     1.    After the next and every subsequent decennial census of the United States, the Senate districts and Assembly districts shall be established, and the senators and members of the General Assembly shall be apportioned among them, by an Apportionment Commission consisting of [ten] 1[13] 111 members [, five to be] 1[Twelve] Ten1 of the members shall be appointed as follows: 1[two] three1 members appointed by [the] each chairman of the State committee of each of the two major political parties whose candidates for Governor receive the largest number of votes at the most recent gubernatorial election;  1[two members] one member1 appointed by the President of the Senate; 1[two members] one member1 appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; 1[two members] one member1 appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; and 1[two members] one member1 appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey shall appoint the 1[13th] 11th1 member of the Commission.  Each [State chairman] person, in making such appointments, shall give due consideration to the representation of the various geographical areas of the State and to ethnic and racial diversity.  No member of the Commission shall be a member of the Senate or General Assembly. [Appointments] All appointments to the Commission shall be made on or before November 15 of the year in which such census is taken and shall be certified by the Secretary of State on or before December 1 of that year.  [The Commission, by a majority of the whole number of its members, shall certify the establishment of Senate and Assembly districts and the apportionment of senators and members of the General Assembly to the Secretary of State within one month of the receipt by the Governor of the official decennial census of the United States for New Jersey, or on or before February 1 of the year following the year in which the census is taken, whichever date is later.]   

(cf: Art. IV, Sec. III, par. 1; amended effective December 8, 1966)

 

     2.    [If the Apportionment Commission fails so to certify such establishment and apportionment to the Secretary of State on or before the date fixed or if prior thereto it determines that it will be unable so to do, it shall so certify to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey and he shall appoint an eleventh member of the Commission.] a. The Commission so constituted, by a majority of the whole number of its members, shall at a public meeting, within [one month] two months after the [appointment of such eleventh member] receipt by the Governor of the official decennial census of the United States for New Jersey, certify to the Secretary of State the establishment of Senate and Assembly districts and the apportionment of senators and members of the General Assembly.

     b.    Within the two-month period following the receipt by the Governor of the official decennial census of the United States for New Jersey, the Commission shall hold at least three public hearings in different parts of the State at times and locations convenient to the public.  The Commission shall establish a website, to be administered by the Office of Legislative Services, or its successor, starting on January 1 of the year following the year in which the census is taken.  By January 1, the website shall describe, in plain language, the process of the Commission; provide the total votes received in each municipality by candidates in all Statewide general elections in the preceding decade for the offices of United States President, United States Senator, and Governor; and provide a process for members of the public to submit written plans for the establishment of legislative districts and more general comments to the Commission.  The website shall also provide access to the transcripts and recordings of the public hearings and the materials submitted to the Commission, and provide such other information as the Commission deems appropriate 1.1   The Commission shall provide the public with at least 48 1[hours] hours’1 notice on the website of the public meeting of the Commission at which a plan is certified to establish legislative districts, including with the notice the final proposed plan of legislative districts produced by each political party, and shall provide the public an opportunity to comment at the public meeting.

     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.

     e.     In certifying a plan, the provisions of subparagraphs c. and d. of this paragraph shall supersede all other considerations, except that the Commission, in all circumstances, shall only certify a plan in which all districts comply with federal law, including but not limited to any requirements on population deviation and of the Voting Rights Act or any successor act, all districts are comprised of contiguous territory, and all districts comply with the limitations on division of municipalities set forth in Article IV, Section II, paragraph 3 of this Constitution.

     f.     In deciding among multiple plans that meet the provisions of subparagraphs c., d., and e. of this paragraph, the Commission shall consider which plan best preserves communities of interest within the same district.  A community of interest shall mean a geographically contiguous population sharing common interests relevant to the legislative process such as trade areas, communication and transportation networks, media markets, or social, cultural, or economic interests.

(cf: Art. IV, Sec. III, par. 2; amended effective December 8, 1966)

 

     2.    When this proposed amendment to the Constitution is finally agreed to pursuant to Article IX, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, it shall be submitted to the people at the next general election occurring more than three months after the final agreement and shall be published at least once in at least one newspaper of each county designated by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly and the Secretary of State, not less than three months prior to the general election.

 

      3.   This proposed amendment to the Constitution shall be submitted to the people at that election in the following manner and form:

     There shall be printed on each official ballot to be used at the general election, the following:

     a.     In every municipality in which voting machines are not used, a legend which shall immediately precede the question as follows:

     If you favor the proposition printed below make a cross (X), plus (+), or check (√) in the square opposite the word "Yes." If you are opposed thereto make a cross (X), plus (+) or check (√) in the square opposite the word "No."

 

     b.    In every municipality the following question:

 

 

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT REQUIRING STANDARDS AND A PUBLIC PROCESS IN ESTABLISHING LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS

 

YES

 

 

 

 

    Do you approve changing the Constitution to change the membership of the Apportionment Commission, require public hearings, and set standards for the way it creates legislative districts?

    Do you approve adding 1[two more members, one from each major political party and] to the commission1 an independent member 1at the beginning of the process1, 1[to the commission] and changing who appoints some of the members1?  Do you approve banning legislators from serving on the commission?

     Do you approve requiring the commission to provide information to and take comments from the public?  The amendment would also require the commission to hold at least three public hearings.

     Do you approve requiring the commission to establish districts that are competitive and fairly represent voter preferences? This amendment would also require preserving communities of interest within the same district.


 

NO

INTERPRETIVE STATEMENT

 

     Districts for the New Jersey Legislature are established by the Apportionment Commission every 10 years after the federal national census is taken.  This ensures that each district has approximately the same number of people.

     This amendment to the Constitution would increase from 10 to 1[13] 111 the number of members of the commission, none of whom could be a member of the Senate or General Assembly.  This amendment would require an independent member of the commission to be appointed from the start of the process by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  This amendment would require each of the leaders of both major parties in the Senate and General Assembly to appoint 1[two members] one member1.  Presently, all the members are appointed by the chairs of the two major political parties.  Under this amendment, each chair would appoint 1[two] three1 members. 

     The members of the commission would be appointed with regard to ethnic and racial diversity, as well as geographical diversity which is already required.

     This amendment would require the commission to hold at least three public hearings in different parts of the State.  The commission would also be required to provide information to the public, and accept district plans and comments from the public.

     This amendment would require the commission to vote to establish the legislative districts at a public meeting.  The commission would be required to take comments from the public at that meeting. 

     This amendment would prohibit creating a plan in which more than half of the districts favor either major political party compared to the average district. It also would require at least 25 percent of the districts to be competitive. The amendment would also require communities of interest within districts to be preserved. 

     This amendment would require districts to comply with federal law and be comprised of contiguous territory. This amendment requires the districts to follow the limit on dividing municipalities already set forth in the Constitution.