The Green Papers: News

New Jersey Primary moved to Tuesday 26 June 2001
Monday, April 23, 2001

Acting Governor DiFrancesco, earlier this evening [Monday 23 April], signed the bill into law which moves the New Jersey Primary back to Tuesday 26 June... btw, the vote for the bill was 21-11 in the State Senate (DiFrancesco, who- despite being acting Governor- is still a member of this body, abstained) and 43-30 in the State Assembly.

Assembly Minority Leader Joseph Doria, a Democrat, has broadly hinted that the Democrats may bring a lawsuit to challenge the changing of the primary date, though it is as yet unclear on what legal basis such a court challenge could be brought.

Federal Appeals Court Tosses Reapportionment Case to lower Court

Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia, earlier this evening [Monday 23 April], decided- after its preliminary hearing during the day (which had created the need to delay at least the legislative primary in the first place)- to send the Republican challenge to the 11 April legislative reapportionment map to a special tribunal set up in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark; this tribunal will begin hearing the case next Monday [30 April].

Republicans argue that the new reapportionment dilutes the number of black voters, particularly in three newly redrawn districts in Essex County (for which Newark, the state's largest city, is the county seat) in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; Democrats, meanwhile, contend that such dilution is permissible under the Act if it creates new districts in which all minorities, not just Blacks, comprise a majority. The basic legal dispute hinges on the differences between the two major Parties in that the state GOP contends the Voting Rights Act was primarily intended to aid African-Americans while the Democrats argue the Act was intended to benefit all non-white minorities.


Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature voted, on the afternoon of Monday 23 April, to move the New Jersey Gubernatorial and Legislative Primaries back three weeks from Tuesday 5 June to Tuesday 26 June. This action is the result of a Republican challenge, being heard earlier today [Monday 23 April] in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit to a Democrat-supported plan for legislative reapportionment which was approved by the state's bipartisan Reapportionment Commission on 11 April.

In their Federal Court challenge, the Republicans claim that the new map, which places minorities in more legislative districts than reapportionment has in the past, actually discriminates against minorities by making it less likely for minority candidates for the Legislature to be elected (since minorities are parceled out among many districts instead of being grouped into fewer districts with heavily minority predominance); the Democrats counter that the new map actually aids minorities by recognizing the fact- borne out by the 2000 Census- that minority populations have spread further into the suburbs from the inner cities once thought to be their main bailiwick. In reality, of course, the minority population of New Jersey is here merely being used as a political football by both major Political Parties: the state's GOP using a unique "reverse discrimination" argument in seeking legal protection for their traditional "bagel theory" of reapportionment (stick as many minority voters in the "hole" and thus win the bagel itself in legislative elections) while the Democrats stick to their traditional "pie/puzzle theory" (put as many minority voters- read "sure Democratic votes"- in as many districts as possible, thus increasing the chances that more Democrats, regardless of ethnicity, get elected).

The change in primary date to Tuesday 26 June is required because, regardless of the outcome of the Republican court challenge to the new legislative reapportionment (either the new map will be thrown out by the courts, requiring its replacement by a Republican-drawn alternative or even a whole new map altogether, or the new map will be upheld by the courts and implemented as if the GOP challenge never occurred), the court's decision will likely not be handed down for some time and candidates for the Legislature, therefore, cannot- in many, if not most, cases- possibly know which districts they will be running in until a reapportionment which can survive court challenges is in place.

A proposal to keep the Gubernatorial Primary on Tuesday 5 June while moving only the Legislative Primaries to the new date was rejected as being too costly, but this decision to move BOTH primaries back reflects a fear among incumbents in the Legislature- both Republican and Democrat- that a bifurcated primary system (that is, two separate primary elections three weeks apart) would cause a much lower turnout than the usual low turnout for primaries in the second, legislative primary and, therefore, potentially benefit maverick candidates for the State Senate or State Assembly at the expense of Party-endorsed candidates. It is thought that pushing the Gubernatorial primary back as well hurts the candidacy of acting Governor DiFrancesco (who currently faces a strong challenge in the Republican primary from outgoing Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler); however, pushing the primary back has also pushed the dates for filing by gubernatorial candidates back three weeks to Thursday 10 May from late last week and many observers have wryly noted that this new filing date still gives the New Jersey GOP time to find a Party-endorsed candidate in place of DiFrancesco, who has some serious ethics issues with which to contend- a candidate who might, better than DiFrancesco, be the more able to fend off the challenge of Mayor Schundler, who is thought to be too conservative to defeat the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Woodbridge Township Mayor and former State Senator Jim McGreevey in November's General Election: the new filing deadline would also allow the acting Governor to file for his current seat in the State Senate should he decide, or be forced, to drop out of the Governor's race within the next two weeks or so.


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