N.J. congressional redistricting panel holds hearings


New Jersey Star Ledger — Talk of racial and ethnic representation dominated testimony at the congressional redistricting commission’s second public hearing Tuesday in Newark.

Commissioners heard testimony from eight people who mostly advocating keeping “communities of interest” together, both racial and religious.

Jerry Vattamala, an attorney with the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Asian-Americans’ voting power had been diluted because the areas where they’re heavily concentrated are separated into numerous districts.

“Asian-American communities of interest should be kept whole,’ he said. “The time to correct this injustice is now.”

Rob Pettet, a councilman from Wanaque, disagreed with the important of race in redistricting.

“I’ll just give my humble opinion but I think we’re just all Americans, and I’d like to see it that way in this great country,” he said. “I think when we get into this idea of trying to divide and split and make all one and get into representations, I think we go down the wrong road.”

The 13-member commission is redrawing the state’s congressional districts. Since New Jersey’s population growth has not kept pace with faster-growing states, we’re losing a seat.

But while this process is expected to be contentious behind the scenes, public interest so far has been limited at best. About 30 people showed up to watch today’s hearing in Newark. By contrast, state legislative redistricting meetings earlier this year were often packed.

Pettet asked the commission to keep his Passaic County town in the district represented by U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.), who is New Jersey’s most conservative congressman. Others advocated for their representatives. Republican Bound Brook Mayor Carey Pilato said the 7th Dististrict- represented by Republican Leonard Lance – should be kept largely the same. Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah asked the commission to keep the towns that make up much of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell’s (D-8th Dist) power base together.

“Our community in the heart of Passaic County is closely related in many of the aspects you take into consideration and should not be divided,” he said.

The commission has another meeting later Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

By Matt Friedman, New

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