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League Newsletter March 2011

LWV logo
The League of Women Voters
of the Princeton Area
 
Update 
 Volume 25  Issue 4
 March 2011  


The League of Women Voters
of the Princeton Area
welcomes information
about issues

in our League area and
encourages comments at

lwvprinceton@gmail.com


Dates to Consider
 

March 18  4:15-8:00
and
March 19- 8:30-5:30
Ready to run  at  Douglass Campus Center, Rutgers- New Brunswick
 
April 6 
Last day to register to vote in School Board Election
 
April 18
Last day to change party affiliation for Primary Election
 
April 19
Last day to register of change address for Municipal election
 
April 27
School Board election
 
April 30
Communiversity – Visit the local League’s table
 
April 30
LWVNJ convention at Basking Ridge

For Events through the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Douglas Campus:

See 
events@eagleton.rutgers.edu for Details

Voter Services Report
by Chrystal Schivell
 
School Board elections will be held on Wednesday, April 27.  Please note that it's a Wednesday this year.According to state statute (N.J.S.A. 19:60-1), the date has been changed because a Tuesday election this year would have coincided with a period of religious observance, the last day of Passover.
 
Voter Services will produce voters' guides, the responses of candidates to League questions, for all contested elections.  The guides will be posted on the League website in early April.
 
Once I learn, in early March, which elections are contested, I will approach The Princeton Packet and the WW-P News about publishing the guides in the paper. 
 
I want to thank everyone who's already sent in suggestions for questions and  anyone who does so before my March 4 deadline.  The response has been wonderful.  So far, I've heard from Valerie Haynes, Edith Neimark, Martha Redi, Sandy Shapiro, Grace Sinden, and Linda Sipprelle.  I hope to hear from more.  Again, thank you.  A team effort is much superior to my searching for ideas in old newspapers by myself.


From the President's Desk

As 2011 moves along rather rapidly, it becomes clearer that there is ample opportunity for one to get involved in issues that affect one’s life on a regular basis; indeed, on a daily basis. New Jersey is facing many tough decisions that have arisen out of the fiscal crisis: local state issues that have caused the crisis as well as how the state has been impacted by the larger financial crisis across the country.
 
What impacts our members of the Princeton Area on a regular basis? At this writing, I can think of many different issues: the dramatic cuts to the schools; the property tax cap; cost overruns regarding snow removal; Save the Valley Road school; consolidation of small towns with larger towns (Rocky Hill & Montgomery); the property tax revaluation research that continues in the Princetons; consolidation of the Princetons; the fate of the Dinky; changes to mass transit; creation of an additional historic preservation district in Princeton Borough; the new study about the Battle of Princeton; and many more… I’ve just named a few that I’ve read about over the past week in the local papers.
 
What does this mean for everyone (not just League members)? There has never been a more compelling time to get involved in your local government issues – where one is impacted most directly on a regular basis. Pick a topic, any topic, and there are meetings taking place all across our League area. And our League has been fortunate enough to be one of several Leagues co-sponsoring events on important issues – the most recent was the impact of redistricting in New Jersey.
 
Our League website at www.lwvprinceton.org has been redesigned by Sandy Shapiro and is a wonderful place to get information on current League events as well as other events taking place. Another resource for information about local area meetings is www.allprinceton.com. As well, please check your e-mail for updates about League events that we’ll send out. Many of our members are very active, which is terrific. I ask you all to bring a friend or two the next time you head out to a meeting, whether it’s a League event or a local meeting that you’ll be attending. One of my favorite pins I received from a fellow League member states quite powerfully, yet simply, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” We are all impacted by these meetings which take place – let’s make our voices heard.
 
Ruth Ann Mitchell



Redistricting in New Jersey:
The Challenges Ahead

Submitted by Chrystal Schivell and Rita Ludlum
           
Seventy-five people attended the forum on redistricting that was
co-sponsored by the Lawrence, Hopewell Valley, Hightstown/East Windsor, and Princeton Area Leagues on February 15 at ETS.  Nicole Plett, president of the Lawrence LWV, welcomed the audience, which included former Congressman Dick Zimmer, as well as a member of the Clean Elections Commissions and an attorney for the Democrats on the Apportionment Commission.
 
Len Preston, chief for Labor Market Information at the New Jersey State Data Center, presented the results of the 2010 census.  The graphics which he used may be seen by going to www.nj.gov/labor.  (Scroll down on the left margin to “Labor Market Information” and click.  Then look for the NJSDC logo and click on NJ State Data Center.) 
 
The US population grew 9.7% to 308,754,538, up from 281,421,906 in 2000.  The southern and western sections are growing faster than the northeast, with the result that New Jersey will lose one seat in the House.  Each member of Congress will now represent 733,958 people, compared to 648,000 in 2000.  Details about population changes in each of New Jersey's counties can be found at the above website.
 
Ben Brickner, author of “Reading Congressional and State Legislative Redistricting, Their Reform in Iowa, Arizona and California, and Ideas for Change in New Jersey,” explained the gist of his paper.  You can read it by going to the Eagleton Institute website and scrolling under News and Announcements to Redistricting in New Jersey.  He compared the redistricting processes in several states and described the process in New Jersey, which actually has two commissions.           
 
The State Legislative Apportionment Commission, established in 1966, has five Democrats and five Republicans plus one Independent, who is appointed by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice to act in case of a tie.  No public input is required.  Because of New Jersey's off-year state elections, this Commission must complete its work by early April of this year. Mr. Brickner commented that New Jersey's Apportionment Commission, now actively working to create maps of the new districts by the April 3rddeadline, has been more transparent than in the past.  It has held four public hearings (not required) and has a website.
 
The Congressional Redistricting Commission, established in 1991, has thirteen members: six Democrats, six Republicans and one Independent.  It must hold four public hearings.
 
After illustrating two methods of gerrymandering, Mr. Brickner pointed out that although the motive behind redistricting is partisan advantage, all commissions must take into account population equality, civil rights, and traditional districting principles such as compactness, contiguity,  preserving the core of the previous district, and preservation of its “community of interest.” 
 
Ingrid Reed, former director, New Jersey Eagleton Project, then discussed “What Way Now?”  She agreed with Ben Brickner that the Apportionment Commission has been more open, but she asked the audience to consider whether New Jersey's redistricting process allows conflict of interest: party chairs select members of the commissions, including themselves and sitting elected officials.  She noted that the chief justice doesn't have to appoint the Independent member until March 3; thus the Independent misses any earlier public input or debate, nor does he or she have money for staff. 
 
Since it's too late to change the redistricting process for 2010, Ingrid suggested that voters think about changes for 2020: what might a competitive, representative district look like? How might they change their own municipal districts that vote at the firehouse?  For example, at one recent public hearing, farmers from Salem county said they wanted a rural district so that farming interests would be represented.  And how should members of the commission be chosen?  Ingrid doesn't oppose political affiliation, just incumbency.  She acknowledged that it might be hard to find a process for choosing an independent member.  But, she said, unless voters make an effort to understand redistricting, they will be unable to evaluate a plan, and their input at public hearings will have little value.
 
Deborah McMillan, president of Hightstown/East Windsor League, moderated the Q&A, a lively discussion with input from the officials in the audience.  There seemed to be consensus that a district is considered competitive when the vote swings 15% or so each election cycle, that compact districts are more competitive, and that if a district is not competitive, its representative may become less responsive to constituents.  An unresolved issue is where to count prisoners, university students, and nursing home residents – at their home addresses or their institutions.  Finally, it was noted that any change in the redistricting process would take several years because it requires a change in the state constitution.  Deborah suggested that such a time frame would work well for a League study