The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Census 2010: Ward and District changes


Schematic of Plainfield's Ward after the 2000 Census.
While public attention is riveted on New Jersey's congressional and legislative redistricting, which must be completed within a matter of weeks, Plainfield, as one of only 64 communities in the state with wards, will also be facing the redrawing of Ward and District boundaries.

This will be done AFTER Gov. Christie 'promulgates' the official Census 2010 numbers, which is not expected to happen before April 1. That means that the local maps (see list at end of post) will be redrawn to take effect with the primary election of 2012.

And that will be done by the 'Board of Ward Commissioners' which New Jersey law stipulates is the county Board of Elections (composed of four members, two from each party) PLUS the Municipal Clerk (who is the tie-breaker).

The Ward Commissioners must meet within THREE MONTHS of the governor's 'promulgation' of the Census numbers and has thirty days thence to complete its work, as outlined in Dr. Ernest Reock's redistricting report (see here, PDF).

The statutory requirement is that the largest Ward's population may not exceed the smallest by more than 10% of the 'mean average population of the wards' -- which translates to 5% on either side of the average Ward population.

With Plainfield having a gain of 1,979 (to 49,808) over the 2000 population (47,829), the outer parameters on an average size of 12,452 per Ward would be 13,075 for the largest and 11,829 for the smallest.

My surmise is that the bulk of the growth in the population has been in Ward 1 and Ward 4, which would mean the
GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES would shrink slightly as population was moved into the wards where population growth was less pronounced. (I expect this will continue the trend shown with the redrawing of the Ward boundaries after the 2000 Census.)

VOTING DISTRICTS, as Reock points out, are flexibly sized, but he says 'they usually should not have more than 750 registered voters...[nor be] smaller than 250 voters'.

The matter of the redrawing of the voter districts seems to me to be more problematic, as my analysis of the 2010 General Election shows that there is an enormous range in numbers of registered voters in Plainfield's voting districts (from 441 in 1-3 to 1,121 in 4/2).

Here are the details as I discovered them --


2010 GENERAL ELECTION

Total
Registered
Turnout
% Voting
Ward 1


01
625
282
45%
02
961
287
30%
03
441
163
37%
04
495
185
37%
05
543
166
31%
06
571
231
40%
07
743
300
40%
08
601
265
44%

Ward 2



01
712
212
30%
02
509
235
46%
03
553
262
47%
04
594
212
36%
05
477
244
51%
06
584
292
50%
07
585
265
45%
08
458
229
50%
09
512
257
50%
10
494
242
49%
11
869
342
39%


Ward 3



01
496
168
39%
02
545
222
41%
03
551
268
49%
04
887
377
43%
05
478
272
57%
06
522
282
54%
07
524
250
48%
08
498
206
41%
09
689
259
38%
10
903
273
30%

Ward 4



01
1,201
332
28%
02
1,121
425
38%
03
821
395
48%
04
568
200
35%
05
499
191
38%


Would a rationalizing of the number and distribution of Plainfield's voting districts seem to be in order?

From the point of view of the economics of operating the elections, it seems Plainfield could use fewer voting districts overall (with the exception that Ward 4 could possibly benefit from having ONE DISTRICT MORE).

But the statutes seem to remain silent on whether any particular action MUST be taken.

And that is where politics can rear its head, with the two political parties having vested interests in keeping the status quo with regard to voting districts.

Perhaps I forgot to mention that all this is taking place in NEW JERSEY?

Where change, if it comes, comes ever so slowly.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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