Frequently Asked Questions

Congressional redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundary lines of a state’s congressional districts.

The purpose of congressional redistricting is to ensure that each person residing in New Jersey is equally represented in the United States House of Representatives by the creation of districts that are as equal in population as possible, so as to achieve the principle of “one person – one vote.”

The congressional redistricting process must occur every ten years, at the beginning of each decade, following congressional apportionment, which is the process by which Congress allocates the 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives to each state based on population. Once a state knows how many Representatives are allocated to the state, the new congressional districts can be drawn using the official results of the federal decennial census for the state. The census provides the demographic and geographic data from which the districts are created.

Each of the 50 states has its own method of redrawing congressional district boundaries. In the majority of states, the congressional districts 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 congressional redistricting is given to a group other than the legislature. Such is the case in New Jersey, where a plan is created by a Redistricting Commission as provided for in the New Jersey Constitution.

Article II, Section II, paragraph 1 of the State Constitution provides that the Redistricting Commission is to be composed of 13 members, none of whom can be a member or employee of the United States Congress. The members of the commission must be appointed with due consideration to geographic, ethnic and racial diversity.

Twelve members are appointed first, of which two are appointed by the New Jersey Senate President; two by the Speaker of the General Assembly; two by the Senate Minority Leader; two by the General Assembly Minority Leader; two by the chairman of the State committee of the political party whose candidate for the office of Governor received the largest number of votes at the most recent gubernatorial election; and two by the chairman of the State committee of the political party whose candidate for the office of Governor received the next largest number of votes in that election.

The thirteenth member is then appointed by the majority vote of the twelve commissioners to serve as an independent member and chairperson of the commission. The independent member must have been a resident of the State for the preceding five years, and must not have held public or party office in the State. The independent member must be appointed on or before July 15 of each year ending in one, and 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 by majority vote of its full authorized membership the more qualified of the two persons. 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.

Under the State Constitution, the Commission must hold its organizational meeting on Tuesday, September 6th of 2011. It must also hold at least three public hearings, and must vote on a final plan by Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

A range of redistricting principles must be followed in the congressional redistricting process. Such principles have been established over time, in accordance with federal constitutional provisions, laws such as the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a significant number of federal and State court decisions.

The State is currently divided into 13 congressional districts, with one member of the United States House of Representatives elected from each district. Due to New Jersey’s population changes in relation to the population of other states in the United States, the number of Representatives apportioned to the State by Congress decreased from 13 to 12. Therefore, the new congressional redistricting plan must eliminate one congressional district.

Members of the public may contact the commission by Email through this site, or send regular mail to: Frank J. Parisi or Raysa Martinez Kruger, Secretaries, New Jersey Redistricting Commission, State House Annex, P.O. Box 068, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0068

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