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Stories about New Jersey

Redistricting review: New Jersey Republicans request clarification from secretary of state about how to count incarcerated individuals

On July 26, the New Jersey Globe reported that the Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions had requested clarification from Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) on how incarcerated people in the state should be counted in reapportionment and redistricting processes. Under S758, passed in 2020, New Jersey must count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for the purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. A698, which currently awaits action from Gov. Phil Murphy (D), would expand that requirement to redistricting for municipal, county, school board, and congressional purposes.

Under S758 and A698, the secretary of state must submit an apportionment report based on numbers from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC). Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the U.S. Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data because “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics.” “Barlas and Steinhardt asked whether there was a plan for “addressing the consequences of differential privacy with regard to New Jersey’s prison populations [and] … how will discrepancies between census and DOC data be rectified.”

Barlas and Steinhardt requested that Way respond by Aug. 2.

In other redistricting news, public redistricting hearings are scheduled in Indiana, South Carolina, Washington, and Virginia.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in New Jersey after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Indiana after the 2020 census

Redistricting in South Carolina after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Washington after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Virginia after the 2020 census



The latest redistricting news from New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

New Jersey: On July 20,New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and pick a consensus candidate for the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission.

According to state law, the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature and the chair of the state’s two major political parties appoint the first 12 members of the congressional redistricting commission. The 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the New Jersey Supreme Court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner.

Last week, when the commissioners could not reach a consensus by their July 15th deadline, they submitted former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., and former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus to the court. According to the New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a 13th member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.”

Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30th to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the New Jersey Supreme Court will pick a tiebreaker candidate by August 10th.

New Mexico: The New Mexico Redistricting Committee’s new website launched last week. The website includes information on how to participate in committee meetings and a portal for submitting public comments or maps. It can be accessed here.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily halted a lower court ruling blocking Republican legislators from hiring private attorneys with taxpayer funds. On July 15, the court unanimously agreed to take up the case, and in a 4-3 decision ordered that Republican lawmakers be allowed to hire private attorneys pending their decision.

Additional reading:



New Jersey state Sen. Chris Brown resigns to take new role in Murphy administration

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appointed state Sen. Chris Brown (R) to a position in the Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services on July 19. The position required Brown to leave the state Senate. Brown started his new job on July 20.

Brown first won election to the Senate to represent District 2 on Nov. 7, 2017, defeating incumbent Colin Bell (D) 53.52% to 46.48%. Brown had announced in February that he would not seek re-election.

Vacancies in the New Jersey Legislature are filled by interim appointment by the county leadership of the party that last controlled the district. 

The New Jersey Senate is the upper chamber of the state legislature. Currently, there are 25 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and one vacancy in the Senate.

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Assessing the vulnerability of the Democratic trifectas in New Jersey and Virginia

Gubernatorial or state legislative elections are taking place in two states, New Jersey and Virginia, in 2021. Trifecta status is at stake in both states.

A trifecta exists when one party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house. There are currently 38 trifectas: 23 Republican trifectas and 15 Democratic trifectas. The remaining 12 states have a divided government where neither party has a trifecta. Ballotpedia has calculated the vulnerability of both trifectas with elections in 2021. Trifecta vulnerability is calculated by Ballotpedia by assessing each component’s chance of changing control. Gubernatorial races are rated using race ratings from the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections. Legislative races are assessed based on the absolute number of seats and the proportion of seats that would need to be flipped. Both chambers in a state’s legislature are evaluated individually.

New Jersey has been a Democratic trifecta since Gov. Phil Murphy (D) assumed office in 2018. It has scheduled elections for governor, all 40 state Senate seats, and all 80 state Assembly seats. Election forecasters rate the governor’s race Solid Democratic. Republicans need to either win that election, flip six out of 40 state Senate seats (15%), or flip 13 out of 80 state Assembly seats (16.25%) in order to break the Democratic trifecta. Ballotpedia therefore assesses New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta as not vulnerable.

Virginia has scheduled elections for governor and all 100 state House seats in 2021. The state is also a Democratic trifecta, and has been since the start of the 2020 legislative session. Election forecasters rate the gubernatorial election as Leans Democratic and Republicans would need to flip six of the 100 state House seats (6%). Ballotpedia has assessed Virginia’s Democratic trifecta as moderately vulnerable.

Changes in a state government’s policy priorities often follow changes in trifecta status, as trifecta control affords a political party the opportunity to advance its agenda. Gaining or breaking trifectas—or in some cases, maintaining divided government—thus often becomes a major priority for a party heading into each election cycle. Between 2010 and 2020, 72 state government trifectas were broken or gained.

Additional reading:

State government trifectas

Historical and potential changes in trifectas



New Jersey voters will decide amendment to allow college sports betting on in-state games, New Jersey-based teams

On November 2, N.J. voters will decide at least two constitutional amendments, including an amendment to expand college sports betting. The ballot measure would allow wagering on postseason college sports competitions held in N.J. and competitions in which an N.J.-based college team participates. Currently, the state constitution permits sports betting except on games held in N.J. and on games featuring N.J.-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would expand sports betting to include all postseason college sports competitions, as long as a nonprofit collegiate athletic association sanctions the game.

The state Assembly approved the constitutional amendment on June 24, 2021. The state Senate approved the constitutional amendment 21 days earlier on June 3. Democrats and most (36 of 43) Republicans supported referring the constitutional amendment to the ballot.

In 2011, voters passed a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in New Jersey, except on college sporting events involving an N.J. team or taking place in N.J. Betting is permitted in-person, through telephone, or through the internet at racetracks throughout the state and casinos in Atlantic City. The constitutional amendment, however, was blocked after the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB sued then-Gov. Chris Christie (R) to stop the implementation of sports betting. The NCAA argued that the Sports Wagering Act violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibited states from being involved in sports betting. On May 14, 2018, the case surrounding sports betting went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting. In June 2018, sports betting was authorized in New Jersey. 

Since Christie v. NCAA, 30 states and D.C. have passed laws to legalize sports betting. In Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, and South Dakota, sports betting was legalized through ballot measures. Voters in California will decide a ballot initiative on November 8, 2022, on whether sports betting show be legalized at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks.

Between 1995 and 2020, N.J. ballots featured 35 constitutional amendments, and 91% of them were approved by voters. An average of one constitutional amendment appeared on odd-year general election ballots in New Jersey during this period. As of June 24, 2021, the legislature had referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot. The legislature can also refer general obligation bond issues. Legislation for ballot measures must be passed by August 2, 2021, for measures to appear on the ballot for November 2. Legislature passed after that date would place measures on the ballot for 2022. 

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New Jersey voters will decide constitutional amendment this year on use of raffle and bingo proceeds

At the election on Nov. 2, 2021, New Jersey voters will decide a constitutional amendment related to raffle and bingo proceeds. The constitutional amendment, known as Senate Concurrent Resolution 91 in the state Legislature, received unanimous approval in both the Senate and Assembly. It is the first measure referred to the statewide ballot for New Jersey’s 2021 general election. 

As of 2021, the New Jersey Constitution limited bingo and raffles to several types of organizations, including

  1. veterans, charitable, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations;
  2. civic and service clubs;
  3. senior citizen associations; and
  4. volunteer fire companies and volunteer first-aid and rescue squads.

Of these organizations, veterans and senior citizen organizations were allowed to use proceeds from bingo or raffles to support their groups. The other organizations were prohibited from doing so. The ballot measure would allow all of the organizations that are otherwise permitted to hold bingo or raffles to use proceeds to support their groups. If approved by voters, the amendment would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022. 

Between 1995 and 2020, the New Jersey ballot featured 35 constitutional amendments, and 91% of them were approved by voters. An average of one constitutional amendment appeared on odd-year general election ballots in New Jersey during this period.

The legislature is currently considering a second constitutional amendment, which would expand sports betting at horse racetracks to college athletics. It also has the option to refer bond issues to the ballot. The legislature can refer measures to the 2021 ballot until Aug. 2. Measures passed after Aug. 2, which is three months before the general election, would be placed on the 2022 ballot.

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Two state legislative incumbents defeated in New Jersey primary elections, a decade-high

Two members of New Jersey’s General Assembly lost to primary challengers on June 8, 2021, a decade-high number for the legislature.

Serena DiMaso (R) in the multi-member District 13 lost to Gerard Scharfenberger (R) and Victoria Flynn (R). Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D) from Assembly District 31 unofficially withdrew from the race before the primary, but his name remained on the ballot.

The Democratic primary in Assembly District 18 and the Republican primary in District 26, both featuring two incumbents each, remain too close to call as of June 11.

All four state Senate incumbents facing primary challenges won.

Primary defeats for incumbents in the New Jersey State Legislature are uncommon. Before 2021, only one state legislative incumbent had lost in a primary election: Assm. Joe Howarth (R) in 2019. No incumbent state Senator has lost in a primary since 2003.

In addition to the two primary defeats, five Democrats and three Republicans chose not to seek re-election in the General Assembly. In the state Senate, one Democrat and three Republicans opted against re-election.

Use the following links to learn more about New Jersey’s 2021 state legislative elections:



Jack Ciattarelli wins New Jersey gubernatorial Republican primary, will face Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in general election

Former New Jersey Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli defeated Philip Rizzo, Hirsh Singh, and Brian Levine for the Republican nomination in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election. Ciattarelli received 49.5% of the vote, followed by Rizzo with 25.8%, Singh with 21.5%, and Levine with 3.3%.

Ciattarelli will face Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in the general election on November 2, along with Gregg Mele (L), Joanna Kuniansky (Socialist Workers), Justin Maldonado (I), and David Winkler (I).

The general election will determine New Jersey’s trifecta status for the next four years. A Murphy victory would maintain Democratic trifecta control, while a Ciattarelli victory would create a divided government. Election forecasters expect the Democratic party to maintain control of the state legislature.

As of June 1, 2021, two of the three major race rating outlets rated the general election as Solid Democratic and the third rated it as Likely Democratic, but Republicans have had success in the state’s gubernatorial races in the recent past. Between 1992 and 2021, Republicans held the governorship for 16 years and Democrats held the governorship for 14 years.

Heading into the 2021 election, the last Democratic governor to win re-election was Brendan Byrne in 1977. Since then, two sitting Democratic governors, Jim Florio (1993) and Jon Corzine (2009), lost re-election to Republican challengers.



Seventy-nine percent of state legislative incumbents in New Jersey will not face a contested primary this year

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

Ninety percent of state legislative incumbents in New Jersey are seeking re-election in 2021. Of these 108 incumbents, 79%—85 legislators—will advance to the general election without a primary challenge, according to Ballotpedia’s primary election competitiveness analysis.

The remaining 23 incumbents—nine Democrats and 14 Republicans—will face contested primaries on June 8, 2021.

When an incumbent faces a contested primary, there is the chance he or she might be defeated before the general election, typically guaranteeing the seat to a newcomer. These defeats—along with retirements and general election losses—contribute to the overall incumbent turnover during each election cycle.

The most common cause of incumbent turnover is retirement, which, over the past decade, accounted for 70 percent of all state legislative turnover. Primary election defeats—at 10 percent—were the most uncommon cause of turnover.

Primary election defeats in New Jersey are especially rare. Since 2011, only one state legislative incumbent has been defeated in one: Assm. Joe Howarth, who lost in a 2019 Republican primary.

Contested incumbent primaries became more common in New Jersey during the 2017 state legislative elections. In 2019, the state saw a decade-high rate with around one-third of all incumbents facing primary challenges. The rate decreased to around one-fifth of all incumbents facing contested primaries in 2021 but remains higher than rates from the first half of the past decade.

Virginia is also holding state legislative elections in its House of Delegates in 2021. Based on preliminary data, the state is slated to see a decade-high rate of incumbents facing contested primaries at 18.1%. Out of the 100 incumbents, 94 are seeking re-election, 17 of whom will face contested primaries. Parties in Virginia use a mixture of primaries and conventions to select nominees. All primaries will take place on June 8 whereas convention dates are selected by district parties. Ballotpedia will update its primary competitiveness data for Virginia as it becomes available.

Ballotpedia is collecting primary election competitiveness statistics for all regularly-scheduled state legislative and state executive elections ongoing in 2021. Learn more here. Use the links below to view coverage of the New Jersey and Virginia state legislative elections:



Voters to decide state legislative primaries in New Jersey, Virginia on June 8

Two states—New Jersey and Virginia—are holding state legislative elections this year. Democratic and Republican voters in each state will be selecting nominees for these races on June 8.

In New Jersey, all 120 state legislative seats are up for election: 80 in the General Assembly and 40 in the state Senate.

Ninety percent of incumbents, or 108 legislators, are running for re-election, down from 2019 when 95% of incumbents ran for re-election.

A majority of incumbents running for re-election in 2021, 85 legislators, will not face a primary and will advance directly to the general election. The remaining 23—nine Democrats and 14 Republicans—face contested primaries. This is the lowest share of incumbents facing contested primaries in New Jersey since 2015.

Former Assm. Joe Howarth (R), who lost a primary in 2019, is the only state legislative incumbent to lose a primary in New Jersey since 2011.

Democrats have held majorities in both chambers of the New Jersey State Legislature since 2003 and currently hold a Democratic trifecta alongside incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who is also running for re-election in 2021.

In Virginia, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election. 

Ninety-four percent of incumbents filed to run for re-election to the House in 2021, more than 2019 (84%) and 2017 (93%). Of the six incumbents not seeking re-election, one is a Democrat and five are Republicans. 

Not all state legislative nominees in Virginia are chosen through a primary. District Democratic and Republican parties may choose to hold a nominating convention rather than a primary to pick their candidates. In 2021, at least 22 state legislative district parties—five Democratic and 17 Republican—chose conventions as their selection method.

In 2019, one House incumbent—Del. Robert Thomas Jr. (R)—lost in a primary election. Thomas’ defeat was the first for a House incumbent in Virginia since 2015 when Mark Berg (R) and Johnny Joannau (D) lost in their respective primaries.

This is the first state legislative election cycle in Virginia since Democrats won a majority in the House of Delegates. In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, creating a Democratic trifecta in Virginia for the first time since 1994. The chart below shows the change in partisan control of the House of Delegates since 2011.

To learn more about these state legislative elections, use the links below: