NJ Constitutional Provisions on Legislative Redistricting
New Jersey State Constitution 1947
(Updated Through Amendments Adopted In November, 2010)
Article IV, Section II
- The Senate shall be composed of forty senators apportioned among Senate districts as nearly as may be according to the number of their inhabitants as reported in the last preceding decennial census of the United States and according to the method of equal proportions. Each Senate district shall be composed, wherever practicable, of one single county, and, if not so practicable, of two or more contiguous whole counties.
- Each senator shall be elected by the legally qualified voters of the Senate district, except that if the Senate district is composed of two or more counties and two senators are apportioned to the district, one senator shall be elected by the legally qualified voters of each Assembly district. Each senator shall be elected for a term beginning at noon of the second Tuesday in January next following his election and ending at noon of the second Tuesday in January four years thereafter, except that each senator, to be elected for a term beginning in January of the second year following the year in which a decennial census of the United States is taken, shall be elected for a term of two years.
- The General Assembly shall be composed of eighty members. Each Senate district to which only one senator is apportioned shall constitute an Assembly district. Each of the remaining Senate districts shall be divided into Assembly districts equal in number to the number of senators apportioned to the Senate district. The Assembly districts shall be composed of contiguous territory, as nearly compact and equal in the number of their inhabitants as possible, and in no event shall each such district contain less than eighty per cent nor more than one hundred twenty per cent of one-fortieth of the total number of inhabitants of the State as reported in the last preceding decennial census of the United States. Unless necessary to meet the foregoing requirements, no county or municipality shall be divided among Assembly districts unless it shall contain more than one-fortieth of the total number of inhabitants of the State, and no county or municipality shall be divided among a number of Assembly districts larger than one plus the whole number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants in the county or municipality by one-fortieth of the total number of inhabitants of the State.
- Two members of the General Assembly shall be elected by the legally qualified voters of each Assembly district for terms beginning at noon of the second Tuesday in January next following their election and ending at noon of the second Tuesday in January two years thereafter.
(cf: Article IV, Section II, paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4 amended effective December 8, 1966)
* Please note that various provisions of Section II have been modified by subsequent court rulings. Currently, there are 40 legislative districts, with one senator and two members of the General Assembly elected from each district.
Article IV, Section III,
- 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 members, five to be appointed by the chairman of the State committee of each of the two political parties whose candidates for Governor receive the largest number of votes at the most recent gubernatorial election. Each State chairman, in making such appointments, shall give due consideration to the representation of the various geographical areas of the State. 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.
- 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. The Commission so constituted, by a majority of the whole number of its members, shall, within one month after the appointment of such eleventh member, certify to the Secretary of State the establishment of Senate and Assembly districts and the apportionment of senators and members of the General Assembly.
- Such establishment and apportionment shall be used thereafter for the election of members of the Legislature and shall remain unaltered until the following decennial census of the United States for New Jersey shall have been received by the Governor.
(cf: Article IV, Section III, paragraphs 1, 2, 3
Congressional Redistricting Under the New Jersey State Constitution
Congressional redistricting occurs at the beginning of each decade in each state. In New Jersey, the congressional redistricting plan is created by the bipartisan New Jersey Redistricting Commission. In November 1995, the majority of New Jersey voters in the general election approved an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution to create the Commission and establish a process for drawing future congressional districts. The Commission is thereby established under Article II, Section II of the State Constitution.
The New Jersey Redistricting Commission consists of 13 members. Twelve members are appointed by legislative and political leaders from the State's two largest political parties on or before June 15 of each year ending in the number one. Of these 12 members, two are appointed by the President of the Senate; two by the Speaker of the General Assembly; two by the Minority Leader of the Senate; two by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly; and two members by each of the chairs of the two political parties whose candidates for Governor received the largest and second largest number of votes at the most recent gubernatorial election.
The 13th or independent member is appointed by a majority vote of the 12 members no later than July 15 of the same year. The 13th member must be a resident of the State for at least five years and cannot during that time have held public or party office. The appointment must be certified to the Secretary of State on or before July 20 of that year.
The State Constitution provides that, if the previously appointed members are unable to appoint an independent member within the time allowed, they must so certify to the Supreme Court not later than July 20 and must include in that certification the names of the two persons who received the greatest number of votes. Not later than August 10 following receipt of that certification, the Supreme Court must select the more qualified of the two persons by majority vote of its full authorized membership. In appointing the independent member, the Court would consider education and occupational experience, prior public service in government or otherwise, and demonstrated ability to represent the best interest of the people of this State. The Court must certify that selection to the Secretary of State not later than the following August 15.
The 13th member serves as Chairperson of the entire Commission, while each party delegation appoints one of its members as its Chairperson. The commission is required to conduct its organizational meeting no later than the Wednesday after the first Monday in September of each year ending in one.
The Commission is required to hold at least three public hearings in different parts of the State. The State Constitution also requires the Commission, subject to the constraints of time and convenience, to review written district plans submitted by members of the public. The meeting at which the plan is adopted must be an open public meeting, which must be held after at least 24 hours public notice. However, other Commission meetings may be closed to the public.
Congressional Redistricting Timeframe in New Jersey
Pursuant to the requirements of the New Jersey Constitution, the Commission is to hold its organizational meeting no later than Tuesday, September 6, 2011. Thereafter, the Commission would conduct at least three public hearings and must certify the establishment of congressional districts to the New Jersey Secretary of State on or before the third Tuesday of each year ending in two, or within three months after receipt of the certificate specifying the number of Representatives to which the state is entitled, whichever is later. Therefore, the commission is to certify a congressional districts plan no later than Tuesday, January 17, 2012.
However, if a plan produced by the commission is unable to achieve seven votes, the two district plans receiving the greatest number of votes, but no fewer than five, must be submitted to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which is to select the plan that most closely meets the requirements of the Constitution and laws of the United States.
While the New Jersey Constitution provides redistricting standards for the creation of the State’s legislative districts, the document does not contain any standards applicable to the Redistricting Commission in the creation of congressional districts. Therefore, the process of congressional redistricting must comply with a range of redistricting principles that have been established over time through federal constitutional provisions, laws, and court decisions. Several redistricting principles must be followed, in accordance with established constitutional provisions, laws such as the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a significant number of federal and State court decisions.