Thank you for sponsoring this hearing on fair districting for the state of New Jersey.
My name is Lisa Winkler. I am a resident of Summit, NJ and have lived in NJ for 35 years.
I am a member of the League of Women Voters of New Providence, Berkeley Heights and Summit. In that role, I have conducted voter registration drives, moderated candidate forums, and presented educational programs about the importance of voting in local schools. As a member of Summit Marches On, I have written hundreds of postcards and made countless telephone calls—urging people to register to vote, informing them of the candidate information available on VOTE411, and reminding them about Election Day deadlines and dates.
Engagement in voting is the backbone of our democracy. Redrawing the Congressional District lines impacts not just the ability of people to participate in the voting process, but often, it can depress engagement, two negative outcomes that work against the ideal of ensuring that as many voters as possible contribute to choosing their representatives.
Citizens like knowing their vote links them to issues relevant to their communities. Redrawing a fair and competitive district to favor one party or the other has the effect of diluting the voices of subgroups. Breaking up municipalities into different districts (as was done in CD-7 in the last map update) fractures communities and hurts common interests. Adding in geographic areas that have nothing in common with existing district communities not only adds to a sense of disconnection between constituents, but taxes the congressional representative and his/her staff, making interactions less frequent and forces their actions to be more fragmented, losing the synergy that happens when there are commonalities among those they represent.
I urge the Commission to leave the boundaries of CD-7 unchanged, and further, to consider uniting municipalities (Millburn, Scotch-Plains/Fanwood) under the same Congressional District once again. The more that voters feel valued, the more that engagement increases, and the stronger our democracy.