How does a party that can win a statewide election by 20 points hold so few seats in the New Jersey Legislature? The answer is gerrymandering, drawing district boundaries that favor one political party over another or, as is often the case, so that only one party can win.
New Jersey Republicans could be competitive in at last ten more legislative districts if the district lines were drawn fairly. Oh, and the guy who did the last bit of gerrymandering for the Democrats -- Bill Castner -- has just been rewarded with a job by Governor Phil Murphy as the state's new "gun czar." Well, if he adjudicates on firearms the way he did on boundaries, there goes the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
But the good news is that Ohio just voted down gerrymandering. The people did it. They got tired of the Bill Castner-types and did something about it.
This is a huge victory in the fight to end gerrymandering, stop political polarization, and give power back to the voters. Ohio is a center point of American politics, and one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. If the people can organize and pass a statewide law in Ohio, it can be done in New Jersey.
Thousands of volunteers from the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition collected more than 200,000 signatures, which pressured the legislature to put gerrymandering on the ballot. Groups like Represent.Us got involved and its members joined the fight, hosting 23 phone banks to contact voters, joining forums, and reaching more than 100,000 people with a video about the problem of gerrymandering.
This is just the first of five statewide gerrymandering campaigns that could pass this year. Here's a snapshot of the other four:
- In Michigan, thousands of volunteers in the Voters Not Politicians campaign gathered more than 425,000 signatures in less than four months to put a gerrymandering reform measure on the ballot this November.
- In Missouri, Represent.Us members joined volunteers and organizers in the Clean Missouri coalition to put gerrymandering reform on the ballot. Last Thursday, they submitted more than 345,000 signatures for a measure that will fix gerrymandering, ban lobbyist gifts to politicians, and increase transparency in state government.
In Colorado, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a measure that would have a transparent and independent commission draw congressional and legislative lines, thanks to the hard bipartisan work of Fair Districts Colorado and People Not Politicians. The plan won unanimous support in the state Senate and House, and it will appear on the November ballot.
- In Utah, Better Boundaries submitted nearly 190,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to create a non-partisan redistricting commission to draw legislative, congressional and school board district lines.
If you want to do something about gerrymandering, contact this website and we will put you in touch with the people who are working to make it happen:
Represent.Us is a good place to start. You can check them out here: