It’s Election Day. Do You Know What Your District Is?

It used to be so simple. If you were a Democrat, and you lived in Baristaville, you probably went to your polling place on primary day and cast your ballot for Rep. Bill Pascrell.

Well, no more. The New Jersey political map was redrawn in December when the state lost one congressional district. Pascrell is now fighting for his political life against Rep. Steve Rothman in New Jersey’s 9th Congressional district, and most of us in Montclair, Glen Ridge and Bloomfield are voting in the 10th, where there’s a six-way race for  the Democratic nomination for Congress. And, as a bonus, if you were in the old NJ 10th as well as the new 10th — in other words, if Donald Payne was your congressman before —  you get to vote for the position twice: once to fill the temporarily vacancy left when Payne passed away March 6, and the other for the two-year term that starts January 2013.

But that’s not all. Those of us in the northern parts of Baristaville us are in the 11th district, a district that stretches from Sparta to Nutley, and is currently represented by Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding. Running unopposed for the Democratic nomination is John Arvanites.

On May 24, all six 10th district Democratic candidates participated in a debate at Rutgers Newark, where topics included decriminalizing marijuana, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, same-sex marriage and creating jobs. Newcomer Dennis Flynn, 32, said that the seat must address the “real concerns of the district” and not the vested interests of “some of the bigger power players.”

Former Glen Ridge mayor Carl Bergmanson, (a political observer who also ran in the 2009 primary as a Democratic candidate for governor) offers a succinct rundown of the candidates on his 10th District website, in order of his personal preference from worst to best, with the disclosure that his favorite, Glen Ridge resident Dennis Flynn, is also his first cousin. There are also links to each of the candidates’ own websites on the page. Paraphrasing Bergmanson, and again following his ranking from worst to best  (in his opinion):

Donald Payne Jr., son of the former Congressman and a Newark city councilman, has the coveted line-A spot on the ballot. Unremarkable, establishment candidate

Ron C. Rice Jr., also a Newark city councilman, is the son of Senator Ron Rice.

Nia Gill, state senator, self-promoter

Wayne Smith, mayor of Irvington

Cathy Wright, newcomer, teacher, mother, grandmother

Dennis Flynn, newcomer, emphasizes change and reforming Essex county cronyism.

Bergmanson is especially critical of Montclair’s Gill:

State Senator Nia Gill has done a great job, over the last 20 years or so, of representing Nia Gill – sometimes that happens to also benefit her district. – she was the deciding vote to turn NJN over to Steve Adubato, Jr. (son of Essex County Machine Boss Steve Adubato, Sr.) – basically a lose/lose proposition for the taxpayers – after that, she will never get another vote from me.

The 10th district, by the way, is the bluest in the state. According to NJ Spotlight, there are 208,000 registered Democrats and 21,000 registered Republicans with 179,000 unaffiliated.

Oh yes, and by the way, Dems, you get to vote for Obama in this primary too.

Got all that?

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  1. The headline reads: “Do You Know What Your District Is?” Yet there is no clear map answering the question. How about a link to a find your legislator site? Wait. I looked, couldn’t find one.

    So I guess the headline is the joke of all of this– WHO KNOWS? Where your district is? Only 20% of folks will vote anyway, so why does it matter?

    I’ll just show up and hope for the best.

  2. Prof – Here’s a map I made of the 10th, The dividing line is basicaly Watchung Ave in Montclair – put roughly – Montclair is in the 10th, Upper Montclair is in the 11th, I’m pretty sure that your Estate puts you in Frelinghuysen’s district):

    In Bloomfield, the dividing line is basically Belleville Ave, South of that, you are in the 10th, North of that and you are in the 11th.

    The redistricting commission put out some more detailed Muni maps for the split towns, I’ll try to find them and post them.

  3. JG,

    Gerrymandering. They are divided up based on party preference, race, ethnicity, where party bigshots (especially sitting representatives) live. They try and get exactly the same number of people in each district – according to the 2010 census, each of the districts have 732,658 people in them, except #3 & #5, which have 732,657.

    Basically, in NJ, the State Dems and the State Republicans each submit a map, then, a theoretically neutral individual picks the one he thinks is fairer. In this year’s redistricting circus, the Dems won at the State Legislature level and the Republicans won at the Congressional level.

    If you find such things interesting, take a look at this:

  4. It was a bit of work, but here is a corrected map showing the congressional districts in Bloomfield:

    As you can see, the dividing line is basically Belleville Ave, but the 10th District jumps about 2 blocks north from Spruce Street to the GR border, so it includes all of State Street (including the top by the cemetery and the KoC), all of New Street, and the South Side of Maple.

    Don’t forget to vote!

  5. I know it seems silly, but what other option is there? We can’t have congressional districts per county, because the populations for each would vary. So sometimes that means taking a town and putting half in one district and half in another. Obviously, there are shenanigans that go on with making boundaries to protect one representative or another, but is there any other option?

  6. Thanks for the help.

    Still, they don’t make this stuff easy for folks, huh?.

    As for the process itself, it political, yes. I’m not sure how else you can make it “fair.” It’s based on census figures, and NJ, along with NY lost a lot of folks (many Black), who have moved “back” down South, and to Texas, which gained seats.

    What’s left over is where both parties fight it out, and since one party will be a majority, they will have more say.

    10 years later, we’ll do it again.

    And that’s why voting is so important. Oh, and so is a State economy that allows for upward mobility.

  7. It is a tricky business, Nick. The districts do have to be redrawn – both for fairness, and because it’s right there in the Constitution.

    I realize that the system is rigged to favor them, but just handing the mapmaking directly over to the two parties seems a bit over the top – besides, the parties usually split them up so as to make them as non-competitive as possible, that’s not good for representative government (but is good for the incumbents). Some other states seem to do a better job of creating districts that are competitive, have commonality and aren’t quite so serpentine.

    But since the current system protects the elected, it’s probably unrealistic to expect many changes any time soon. Still, I’d prefer that they at least do a better job of leaving munis intact.

  8. Some other states seem to do a better job of creating districts that are competitive, have commonality and aren’t quite so serpentine.

    Isn’t the nationwide rate for incumbents winning reelection around 96%? I’m not sure any other states do it differently. Besides, you’d be hard pressed to find more than four people in the state who don’t have some kind of political preference, despite the proliferation of so-called independents.

  9. Yes (actually, I’d be surprised if it’s that low), but gerrymandering is only one of the many tremendous advantages incumbents have.

    Personally, I don’t think that political preferences should even be a factor in how the districts are drawn – ideally, I think it should be about population numbers, geography and math.

  10. Vote David Dower on Line B if you live in the 4th Ward and in District 5. He is running for County Committee as an Independent Democrat. Get the word out! David Dower says, “It’s time to elect REAL democrats who will stand up to the party bosses and Chris Christie and fight for working families.”

  11. Vote David Dower on LIne B for County Committee as an Independent Democrat if you live in the 4th Ward, District 5!

  12. “population numbers, geography and math.”

    As long as people are making choices, I don’t see how one can remove the partisan nature of the choices. This is the sort of thing that we should hand over to our Machine Overlords. They’re great at making random and meaningless choices.

    But as someone else pointed out above: good luck getting any improvement past the elected officials with a clear agenda to remain elected officials.


  13. let’s see 15 people commented on elections, while 23 regarding tanning mom,and 21 regarding tattoos? God help us all………

Comments are closed.