When the Democrats who control New Jersey’s legislature attempted to fast track a constitutional amendment to change the way the state draws its legislative districts, a cry went up from the party’s liberal base.
The plan would have inserted a formula into the state constitution almost certainly cementing Democratic majorities for decades to come. But to a new wave of liberal activists — who just weeks before had helped flip four of the five Republican-held New Jersey U.S. House seats to Democrats — it reeked of an attempted power grab. Their party’s redistricting amendment gave them a new target, and joined by good government groups and Republican state lawmakers who stood to see their already diminished clout reduced further, they held rallies in front of the Statehouse to oppose it, with dozens showing up to hearings to testify against it. Even Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy found common cause against the plan.
Redistricting, long a process that drew more attention from political insiders and academics than from the general public, is drawing more and more mainstream attention — with New Jersey the latest state to battle over the drawing of district lines in the run-up to 2020.
“What got us emotionally upset was that here we had fought hard in a certain set of values that we thought Trumpism was an affront to: Lack of transparency, poor policy, power grabbing. We saw Republicans doing that all over the country,” said Sue Altman, a board member of the group South Jersey Women for Progressive Change. “To see our own party kind of make hypocrites of us and to turn it around and do the same thing in New Jersey.”
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