As the federal 2020 Census continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey lawmakers are seeking to postpone legislative redistricting to ensure a fair count. New congressional and state legislative districts are drawn up every 10 years based on census data.
Concerns are growing among lawmakers about a potential under count of local populations due to the virus.
Assembly members Angelica Jimenez, John McKeon, Benjie Wimberly, Yvonne Lopez, Britnee Timberlake, and Tom Giblin introduced legislation that would seek voter approval of a constitutional amendment that would reschedule legislative redistricting to 2023 if the census data is not available in time.
The plan would keep the current legislative district maps in place for an additional two-year term until then.
“This amendment would eliminate any confusion about the process that would take place if a court is forced to get involved at the last minute,” Jimenez (D-Hudson, Bergen) said. “It would also prevent any group from receiving an unfair advantage from moving dates for elections.”
According to Jimenez, the amendment would also protect communities of color and other hard-to-count populations that stand to make significant gains due to increases in population over the last decade.
McKeon (D-Essex, Morris) said that an under count could not only prove detrimental to the way federal funding gets apportioned over the next decade, but would largely affect the way communities are represented through all levels of government.
“This pandemic is creating an unforeseeable impact on the time frame needed to get a complete and accurate census count,” McKeon said. “While we hope the federal government will be able to get it done, we recognize the critical importance of having an alternative course of action should delays come to pass.”
The legislation must now clear committee before heading to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.
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