Observations about NJ Redistricting

The New Jersey Redistricting Commission announced its congressional district maps this morning. Much of the focus will be on the fact that the independent commissioner John Farmer accepted the GOP proposal which included a match up of Republican Scott Garrett and Democrat Steve Rothman in what is essentially Garrett’s old district. So barring the unthinkable, like Ron Paul being the GOP nominee, the Democrats will lose a seat.

But I am more interested in the other features of the outcome. Despite Commissioner Farmer’s earlier stated aspirations to use redistricting as a platform to increase competition and reduce polarization, this appears not to have happened. In fact, none of the other New Jersey representatives are in danger of losing, and Farmer himself lauded the plan for creating “continuity in representation.” Moreover, two freshman members Leonard Lance and Jon Runyan were given better districts, potentially eliminating two tough reelection bids.

But that is just fine by me. As I have written here previously, the notion that polarization can be addressed by districting has almost zero support among political scientists. Moreover, the creation of artificially competitive districts violates important norms of representation and may even backfire as I argue here.

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