State Watch

New Jersey Supreme Court rejects GOP lawsuit challenging congressional map

The New Jersey Supreme Court has rejected a GOP lawsuit challenging the state’s new congressional map. 

In a 5-0 vote Thursday, the state’s highest court ruled in favor of Democrats and dismissed Republicans’ suit, saying it did not challenge the legality or constitutionality of the map itself.

“Historically, after meeting in private with the respective partisan delegations to discuss their proposals, the independent member serves as the tiebreaker and selects one party’s preferred map,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in the decision. “The outcome commonly garners praise from one party and criticism from the other. This redistricting cycle was no different.”

“We review redistricting plans only to determine if the map selected is ‘unlawful.’ So long as the final map is constitutional, the Court cannot grant any relief. It is not the Court’s task to decide whether one map is fairer or better than another,” Rabner wrote.

The New Jersey Redistricting Commission in December approved new congressional maps for the next decade that would likely create a delegation made up of nine Democrats and three Republicans, compared with the 10 Democrats and two Republicans now representing the state in the U.S. House.

The state’s redistricting panel was made up of six Democratic appointees and six Republican appointees. The state Supreme Court selected the final member to act as the tiebreaker. 

The proposed map was passed in a 7-6 vote, with the court’s appointee, former state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace Jr., casting the tie-breaking vote. 

In their lawsuit, Republicans argued that Wallace’s reasoning was “arbitrary and capricious.” 

Though the court asked Wallace to share his reasoning on selecting the Democratic map, Rabner wrote that the court did not rely on the statement the former justice gave when making its decision. 

“The Constitution does not bar the selection of a person who has contributed to a political campaign or a partisan political group, or whose spouse has done so, as the independent member,” the court wrote. “We therefore find no disqualifying conflict.”

Rabner noted that the state’s redistricting process is a “political process.”

“Questions of partisanship or the appearance of partisanship can affect the public’s confidence, yet our current system is designed to be overseen by twelve partisan members and a thirteenth member whom the party delegations propose,” he wrote. He added that other states conduct the process in different ways, but concluded that “in the end, the choice is left to the people of our State.”

Tags Congressional map John Wallace Jr. New Jersey New Jersey Supreme Court Redistricting

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