N.J. Supreme Court chief wants clarification on redistricting choice

by Nikita Biryukov | New Jersey Monitor

The New Jersey Supreme Court asked former Justice John Wallace Tuesday to expand on his explanation for choosing a new congressional map submitted by Democrats.

Wallace — Democrats’ choice for tiebreaker on the state’s Congressional Redistricting Commission — has faced criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for saying he chose the Democratic map because the last redistricting map “was drawn by the Republicans.”

Tuesday’s three-page order says “a more detailed statement of reasons would assist the court.” Wallace’s statement is due by Jan. 11.

Former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt and other members of the commission’s GOP delegation sued Wallace and the Democratic commissioners, claiming the former justice’s reasoning disenfranchised their party’s voters.

The new map makes the 7th Congressional District, held by Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, friendlier to Republicans but shores up most other competitive seats and is likely to leave the state’s House delegation split nine-to-three in Democrats’ favor after this year’s midterm elections.

When Wallace made his decision in December, he noted maps submitted by both parties met all of his criteria. He said he chose the Democratic map because a GOP map was picked 10 years ago.

“In summary, both delegations aptly applied our standards to their map,” he said a Redistricting Commission hearing last month. “In the end, I decided to vote for the Democratic map, simply because in the last redistricting map it was drawn by the Republicans. Thus, I conclude that fairness dictates that the Democrats have the opportunity to have their map used for this next redistricting cycle.”

The Supreme Court selected Wallace as the redistricting panel’s 13th member after the Republican and Democratic delegations failed to reach an agreement on a prospective tiebreaker.

Republicans supported former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus for the position.

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