Frequently Asked Questions

Legislative redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundary lines of legislative districts.

The purpose of legislative redistricting is to ensure that each person is equally represented in our Legislature by the creation of districts that are as equal in population as practicable, consistent with other state constitutional parameters, so as to achieve the principle of “one person – one vote.”

The legislative redistricting process must occur every ten years, at the beginning of each decade, after a state officially receives the results of the federal decennial census, which provides the demographic and geographic data from which the districts are created.

Each of the 50 states has its own method of redrawing legislative boundaries at the start of each decade. In the majority of states, the legislative district plan takes the form of a bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. In over a dozen other states, responsibility for legislative redistricting is given to a group other than the Legislature. Such is the case in New Jersey, where a plan is created by an Apportionment Commission provided for in the New Jersey Constitution.

The Apportionment Commission is the 10-member body, provided for under the State Constitution, with responsibility for drawing New Jersey's legislative districts.

Article IV, Section III, paragraph 1 of the State Constitution provides that the Apportionment Commission is to be composed of 10 members, with five each appointed by the chairmen of the state committees of each of the two political parties whose candidates for governor receive the largest number of votes at the most recent gubernatorial election. The appointments must be made with consideration given to the representation of the various geographical areas of the State. Article IV, Section III,paragraph 2 of the State Constitution further provides that if a majority of the commission is unable to agree on a plan within a specified period, it must so certify to the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who will then appoint an eleventh member.

The Apportionment Commission is directed to certify a redistricting plan within one month of receipt by the Governor of the census results, or on or before February 1st of the year following the year in which the census is taken, whichever is later. However, if a majority of the commission is unable to agree on a plan within this period, it must so certify to the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who will then appoint an eleventh member as a tie breaker. With this new member, the reconstituted commission has one month to certify a plan to the Secretary of State.

In New Jersey, the time frame for legislative redistricting is tight. Although the official deadline for the Census Bureau to provide data to the states is April 1 of the year ending in one, the bureau has sought to help the State meet its deadlines by providing census data by late January or early February. This allows the commission time to accomplish its task in order for the candidates running for office in 2011 to know the new boundaries of their district sufficiently in advance of the filing deadline for the first legislative elections in a the new decade.

A range of redistricting principles must be followed in the legislative redistricting process. Such principles have been established over time, in accordance with constitutional provisions, laws such as the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a significant number of court decisions. In New Jersey, legislative redistricting must also adhere to principles established in the State Constitution, such as contiguity, compactness, population equality, and the indivisibility of counties and municipalities, unless necessary to meet the foregoing requirements.

The State is divided into 40 legislative districts, with one senator and two members of the General Assembly elected from each district.

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