10 questions to Philip Carchman about his redistribution philosophy

The New Jersey Legislative Allocation Commission will hold its first public meeting on Friday morning. It’s just an organization session to officially adopt their rules – there will be no discussions on the individual cards – and it will be Philip Carchman’s first meeting since he was named a tiebreaker in the week. last.

Carchman, 78, is a former Superior Court judge known for his fairness. He was politically savvy enough that the Borough of Princeton and the Township of Princeton appointed him as a municipal court judge at the age of 31 – that was when there were two Princetons with party mayors. different – and as a Mercer County District Attorney in 1981, but he spent 34 years as a judge was never openly partisan.

Carchman becomes the decisive member of the commission that will redraw 40 legislative constituencies for the 2023 election. While there are breadcrumbs on his political philosophies, what Carchman thinks of the process is unclear.

In 2019, a group of six academics involved in the carving reform said that the tiebreaker “has been framed largely by the priorities of a single independent member over the past four rounds of carving.”

“An independent member can come to the table with a clear idea of ​​what principles to focus on, or that member can be successfully approached by one partisan contingent or another to raise some criteria for redistribution,” the academics said. “The New Jersey process was subjected to both dynamics.”

Carchman politely declined to be interviewed – as he probably should at this point – so here are some questions for him:

1. Is he a mediator or a cartographer? Carchman must decide if he wants to negotiate a compromise between Democrats and Republicans – some call it a “deal card” – or if he wants to be a tiebreaker activist who draws his own card and gets five. commissioners at his side. One of the reasons both sides pushed for retired judges to be tiebreakers instead of academics was their desire to have a mediator. Carchman and former Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, the congressional tiebreaker, are the first non-academics to hold the posts.

2. Does he believe in Stokes’ principle of fairness? Princeton University professor Donald Stokes proposed a test of partisan fairness which he used as a tiebreaker test in 1981 and 1991. Stokes emphasized partisan fairness and l ‘used to distribute legislative seats based on a political party‘s share in statewide voting. Carchman will have to say whether he views proportional representation as an imprecise standard – and whether he approves or disapproves of cracking – the dilution of one party’s influence among many districts – and packing – the concentration of the influence of a party in a single district.

3. Should there be more or less competitive districts? The current map now only has two or three really competitive districts. This means that nearly 95% of Senate and Assembly races are decided in the June primary. Carchman may or may not consider the power of organizational lines when examining competitiveness.

Competitiveness does not necessarily mean 2023; the parties can consider the opportunities for the future. Bergen County’s 38th district allowed a Democratic MP to win 56 votes in 2013, but in six years the plurality has risen to 3,798 votes. The Republicans won the 16th District of Central Jersey by 1,975 votes in 2011, but lost it by 4,190 in 2019. The Monmouth-based 11th District had completely overthrown in the last election.

4. How does it define communities of interest? In their 2019 report, the academics noted that “identifying communities of interest is a factual process. Not only must map designers consider demographics, but the process must also seek input from community members themselves. The definition can become quite granular, such as requiring that municipalities that share school districts be represented by the same legislators. Carchman will have to come up with his own definition and prioritize issues such as race, income and even train lines.

He will also have to decide whether he cares about county borders and whether he will allow municipalities to skip the water to stay contiguous. In the past, tiebreakers have put the kibosh on a Bayonne / Elizabeth neighborhood because it would force lawmakers to leave their neighborhood and return to it.

5. What priority does it give to the protection of holders? Tie-breaker Alan Rosenthal largely sought to protect incumbents in 2011 – he refused to examine a card that did not assure former Governor Richard Codey the retention of the Senate seat he has held since 1981 – but it was based in the Senate. Three assembly members were placed in districts with two other incumbents and lost their seats, one openly gay assembly member was forced to sell his house and move to retain his seat (ironically, he left Carchman’s hometown and is now mayor of Trenton), and a freshman Republican was pushed into Steve Sweeney’s district and lost to his two running mates.

As a retired lawyer, Carchman understands that the state’s constitution limited governors to two consecutive four-year terms and required judges to retire at age 70, but without any parameters regarding lawmakers. But he may need to decide when a particular lawmaker is too old to spare – for example, do you draw a district for an 80-year-old man to hold his seat for another ten years – or do you really draw a district for? someone else?

Part of incumbent protection is continuity of service, and the tiebreaker must decide how important it is for a sitting legislator to continue to primarily represent their old constituency.

6. Will it aggressively protect legislators of color and expand opportunities for minorities? Much will depend on whether Carchman extends his definition of minority to the rapidly growing Asian American population and whether he favors the protection of female legislators over men. In 2001, the tiebreaker Larry Bartels, then a professor at Princeton University, focused on racial representation but almost left the state’s only Asian-American lawmaker without a district. In a sort of “by the way” move, Bartels moved Kevin O’Toole from one district that included Roselle Park to one that included Mahwah – and pushed him from the Senate to the Assembly.

7. How does it characterize compactness? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some ask if a neighborhood is pretty to look at on a map – but others talk about drawing neighborhoods around roads that cut down on travel time from end to end. The current 12th district is neither: it looks like a “less than” symbol (

8. Does he believe that the legislative map should come closer to federal standards on the equality of the population? The commission will look to the tiebreaker for advice on population gaps. The US census put the population of New Jersey at 9,288,994 people, so the ideal size district consists of 232,225 people. The state constitution allows for a +/- 10% gap, but past tiebreakers have sought to keep the gap closer to +/- 5%.

9. Who will he hire to be his employees, lawyers and consultants? The tiebreaker gets a budget of around $ 200,000 and the identity of his team will reveal a lot about the direction Carchman is taking. It is entirely his decision whether he uses academics or lawyers. He will also have to decide whether his team should disclose personal relationships with lawmakers or party leaders and whether they will conduct conflict research. Carchman will have the ability to determine the transparency of his team, including a decision to subject them to the state’s Open Public Records Act.

10. This question is asked with respect: What are the technological skills of Judge Carchman? Some 78-year-olds can use a computer effortlessly, while others have difficulty. The work requires an ability to analyze data and use mapping software.


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