NJ Politics will benefit from more women at the table.
National Organization for Women of New Jersey calls for Gender Parity on the 2021 New Jersey Legislative Apportionment Commission charged with redrawing the lines of the State’s 40 legislative districts for the next ten years. The 2011 apportionment commission included three women out of the eleven members. In 2021 the number of women serving on the commission needs to be in excess of that. As of this date, Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt’s announced picks includes just one woman, Salem County Republican Chair Linda DuBois. And, while the Democratic Party has not yet revealed their selections, insider leaks suggest that there are no women on the list.
The commission charged with redrawing state legislative districts quite literally shapes the future of NJ politics for the coming decade. Members of the commission have a great deal of power and influence over NJ politics, and it is indefensible that current discussion of who will comprise this all-powerful commission excludes a major stakeholder – New Jersey’s women.
Barring 50% of the state’s population from inclusion in NJ’s complex political power structures will only serve to exacerbate the state’s overwhelmingly low female political representation. Statistics published by the Center for American Women and Politics have New Jersey ranked at 21st among all states in the proportion of women serving in its legislature. Only 30.8% of NJ’s legislators are female, up less than 3% from the previous decade. In her opinion piece for the Star Ledger, The future of New Jersey politics is male, dated May 03, 2020, Director Debbie Walsh points out that even after 2011 “the negative impacts of the last redistricting disproportionately affected women.”
“Having only one woman on the commission a decade later will be a monumental regression,” said Anjali Mehrotra, President of NOW-NJ. “In a state where incumbents rarely lose, there exist significant barriers for newcomers. To increase the number of women in office, we need women at the table at every level of decision making. Both parties should commit to creating a representative commission catering to the diverse demographics of New Jersey. We need to include more women going forward– not regress to a place worse than where we were in 2011.”
NOW-NJ urges both parties to actively correct this egregious gender disparity that will have a lasting impact on New Jersey’s politics for the next ten years. Each party should select at least two women (out of their five picks) to work towards increasing female representation on the commission. Governor Murphy, in conjunction with Democratic Chairman Currie, will choose three members and Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin each get to select one. NOW-NJ asks all four men, in addition to Republican Chairman Steinhardt to think deeply about the lasting impact they will leave on NJ politics. Do you want to be known as the leaders that purposefully and willfully refused women a seat at the table in NJ politics for the next ten years? Or will you join us in correcting the gender imbalance in NJ politics, one commission at a time?
Download the press release here.