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Merv Turner: CD-7 Redistricting Testimony

Thank you Commission Members for this opportunity to speak.

My name is Mervyn Turner. I have been a resident of New Jersey for 36 years, living in Westfield for the first 32 years and Scotch Plains for the last four.

Lincoln said that a House divided against itself cannot stand. In the current highly polarized environment it is more important than ever that our political boundaries are drawn fairly and equitably, and are SEEN to be drawn fairly and equitably.

Fortunately, in New Jersey, we have a home-grown doctrine to use for foundational guidance in drawing our Congressional boundaries, following the 2020 census. It is the Stokes Fairness doctrine, promulgated in 1991 by the former Dean of the then Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Stokes argued that the map should reflect the State, and that the districts should be aligned with statewide margins. However, that rule was more honored in the breach than in the observance when the current district lines were drawn.

Congressional District 7 was created with the express goal of being a safe Republican seat, and so it was until 2018, when the combination of a great candidate, running an issue-driven campaign, with a huge volunteer effort to turn out the vote produced the upset that was narrowly replicated in 2020.

It would be entirely unfair and antithetical to the Stokes doctrine for the voters of that district to be punished by an act of reapportionment that penalizes the grass roots activism that brought them success, rather than using this opportunity to reflect the will of the voters.

For myself, I would like to see the size of the 7th Congressional District brought more into line with the remaining districts by inclusion of the townships of Scotch Plains, where I live, and Fanwood. Following redistricting in 2010, Scotch Plains is now split between the 7th and 12th Congressional Districts, with the boundary being the man-made obstacle of Route 22.

I would like to see these townships restored to CD7. Scotch Plains, Fanwood and neighboring Westfield form a community of interest, whose redevelopment challenges and opportunities will be closely linked by the construction of the now-to-be-funded Gateway Tunnel Project, which will give these Raritan Valley line communities the one-seat ride to the city that has been promised for decades.

I hope that the Commission will adhere to the principles laid out by Stokes 30 years ago in meeting the challenge of producing fair and equitable Congressional maps for our State.

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