First and foremost I want to thank justice Wallace and the commission for your time and commitment to this hugely important job. Thank you for holding several hearings on this very impactful decision and holding these hearings via Zoom. During the current state of the world I appreciate you allowing for as many voices as possible.
My name is Erica Dubois. I’ve spent nearly my entire life living in CD-7. Growing up in Union, living briefly in Cranford and currently residing in Springfield, where I lived with my parents as a teenager and returned 13 years ago. I recently purchased my first home here with my husband and two daughters, after living for 13 years as a renter. I am a mother, a teacher and a government representative on a local level. I say all of this to demonstrate my deep-rooted connection with CD-7.
I have worked closely with many grassroots organizations that spent numerous hours leading up to the 2018 election to elect our current Congressman. With this experience I know that we are very much a purple district. I believe that voters, not maps, should choose their representation. Competitive races are what’s best for all community members. There is no reason to significantly change the boundaries of our district. Maintaining the cohesion of the current district is part of your job. You must establish districts with equal populations. Based on the 2020 census, several thousand residents must be added, and there are many ways to do that. Adding all of Scotch Plains-Fanwood is one way to do it. I have a very personal connection there—my oldest daughter attends Union County Votech half-day and I’ve worked my summers at the JCC in Scotch Plains. I know that Westfield, Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents are already a community, but they are in different districts. I also know that Springfield, Cranford and Garwood, along with the aforementioned towns, are very much interconnected whether by schools or by religious institutions. Many residents of these towns share a commute to New York City via the Raritan Valley line for example. They have worked across municipality lines to band together to voice their concerns and advocate for changes in regard to their commutes. They are all connected via several highways, Route 22 being most notable. Perhaps the biggest connection between these communities that reared its ugly head this fall with Hurricane Ida is the ongoing flooding. I share these examples as current issues that connect these communities and demonstrate the importance of consistency in representation.
Municipalities and communities should not be divided among congressional districts. In closing, lack of competitiveness is a form of voter suppression. “Safe districts” should not exist on paper. Candidates should have to work for their votes, no matter their party affiliation.
As a government representative myself who once lost a race by two votes, I know firsthand that voter apathy is real, and voter engagement is of the utmost importance. Voters must feel their vote matters! Fair district lines are paramount to democracy!