Former Supreme Court Justice is congressional redistricting tiebreaker

The New Jersey Supreme Court selected former Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr. as the tiebreaking member of the Congressional Redistricting Commission.

The selection was made in accordance with the New Jersey Constitution Article II, Section 2 and announced in a public letter that was sent to New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way.

Wallace was chosen from among the two nominees presented by the twelve partisan members of the commission after Democrats on that panel nominated him.

Wallace was chosen over retired Superior Court judge Marina Corodemus, who was proposed by the Republican map makers.

Partisans were urged to form a consensus but GOP members refused to give the state Supreme Court more options and the justices had to decide by Aug. 10.

The Republicans hoped jurists would nix one of their own because the retired Supreme Court Justice works at Brown & Connery, a law firm connected to South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George E. Norcross III.

Another partner at the firm, Bill Tambussi, has been legal counsel for the Camden County Democratic organization for 32 years and he is the personal attorney for Norcross.

Supreme Court members apparently believe that Wallace’s connections to Democrats are no worse than the Republican bona fides of Corodemus, whose brother Steve Corodemus served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1992 to 2008.

The Judiciary did not comment on the remarkably political implications of this choice.

“The Court considered the two persons recommended by the Commission … and, by a majority vote, selected John Wallace, Jr. to serve as the independent member,” said Clerk of Court Heather Joy Baker.

Associate Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, who served as Wallace’s law clerk, did not participate in the Court’s decision.

The court did not release a roll call vote of the six justices who did vote but

If Wallace ends up giving Democrats an advantage when the panel adopts a map setting district lines from which Congressional representatives will be elected for the next ten years, Republicans would essentially be stuck in a situation of their own making.

Republican Governor Chris Christie broke with tradition by refusing renominate Wallace in May 2010, when he instead nominated GOP attorney Anne M. Patterson.

Republicans declined the opportunity to unify behind former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, a Republican who was suggested by Democrats after the current Chief Justice, Stuart Rabner, sought a consensus.

The panel exists because every ten years, states define new congressional district boundaries that conform with the latest population count certified by the Census Bureau.

The purpose of redrawing the congressional districts is to ensure equal democratic representation in Congress among the members of the state’s population.

The process has contributed to the deep divisions in America today by allowing politicians to pick their voters, instead of the other way around.

In some cases, the cheating is so extreme that one party can be denied even a quarter of the state’s seats in Congress even if its candidates get the vast majority of votes.

For example, Pennsylvania’s 2010 redistricting ensured a Republican grip on 13 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, despite elections where Democrats got more votes for Congress statewide.

The Brennan Center for Justice and others say federal legislation is urgently needed to stop the cheating and protect the integrity of the redistricting process.

Manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency in order to favor one party or class is known as gerrymandering.

Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, an early American statesman who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, served as governor and was the fifth vice president of the United States.

Gerry helped designed a map with a new voting district, the shape of which looked similar to a salamander.

Gerrymandering has been around since the founding, when Patrick Henry tried to draw Virginia’s very first congressional map to prevent James Madison from winning a seat.

Both parties do it when they can but in the 21st century, with the help of computer algorithms combined with commercially available consumer data, it operates on a far vaster scale.

For example, Pennsylvania’s 2010 redistricting ensured a Republican grip on 13 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, despite elections where Democrats got more votes for Congress statewide.

A Brennan Center analysis estimated that the last round of gerrymandering landed the GOP an additional 15 to 17 House seats in all.

Partisan gerrymandering disproportionately affects communities of color, especially in the South.

Because of residential segregation, it’s easy to either combine or split apart those communities for political effect.

Congress allocates the 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives to each state as required by the United States Constitution and in proportion to each state’s population.

The Democratic members are Janice Fuller, former chief of staff to Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th); Stephanie Lagos, chief of staff to first lady Tammy Murphy; former Camden Mayor Dana Redd; Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash; Iris Michelle Delgado, executive director of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization; and Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth).

The Republicans are Doug Steinhardt, a law partner of former Governor Jim Florio and the former state Republican chair; Lynda Pagliughi, vice chair of the state GOP; Westfield councilman Mark LoGrippo; Jeanne Dovgala Ashmore, a Christie administration veteran; Mark Duffy, executive director of the Assembly Republicans; Michele Albano, fundraising coordinator for the Assembly Republican Victory leadership PAC.

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