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Jackman v. Bodine

Decided: April 23, 1965.


For denial of motion for judgment -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

[44 NJ Page 415] In our first opinion in this cause we held that the Legislature of the State of New Jersey was invalidly constituted under the doctrine of Reynolds v. Sims, 477 U.S. 533, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2 d 506 (1964), but held that the Legislature, although thus malapportioned, had the power by virtue of necessity to enact a statute for the temporary reapportionment of that branch of the government, 43 N.J. 453 (1964). We retained jurisdiction over the controversy to the end that applications could be made in the cause for the

resolution of issues left open and all issues raised by such statutes as the Legislature might pass. On March 31, 1965 we filed a second opinion in this cause, 44 N.J. 312, in which we denied an application for extension of time for the enactment of a temporary reapportionment act and in the course of that opinion indicated that the General Assembly as now constituted was acceptably apportioned for the purposes of a temporary plan. Thereafter the Legislature adopted Chapter 19 of the Laws of 1965, N.J.S.A. 52:10B-1 et seq., which continued the present apportionment of the General Assembly and established an interim plan for the Senate. The statute contemplates an election in November of this year for both houses, the terms to run for a period of two years, this in accordance with our first opinion wherein we held that the Legislature to be elected in November 1965 could continue in office for a period determined as set forth in that opinion and in any event not beyond the second Tuesday of January 1968.

Thereupon motions were made on behalf of Joseph J. Maraziti and Bryant Barb for leave to intervene and for a judgment declaring the new statute to be invalid in whole or in part. The applications to intervene were granted and argument was this day had upon the issues so presented.

The statute provides that the Senate shall be composed of 29 members to be elected from 14 Senate districts. The districts are created on the basis of existing county lines. Some of the districts consist of a single county with allocations to such counties of one to four Senators depending upon population. Five of the districts consist of more than one county. One Senator is allocated to two of those districts, again on the basis of the population, and as to the remaining three multi-county districts two Senators are allocated to each, again on the basis of population. With respect to the multicounty districts to which two Senators are allocated, section 5 of the statute provides that "Where any Senate district is comprised of two or more counties and is entitled to two members of the Senate, no political party shall nominate more than one candidate from among the residents of any one

county." We note the restriction relates solely to the nomination of a political party and does not prevent the election at the general election of two Senators from any one of the constituent counties.

Intervenor Barb charges that the basic plan of the allocation of 29 members among the 14 districts cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of "one person -- one vote" announced in Reynolds v. Sims, supra, and contends further that the provisions of section 5 are in any event invalid under the said doctrine, claiming that the restriction upon the nomination by a political party operates in practical effect to insure the election of one member of the Senate from a county with a population far below the representative ratio. Intervenor Maraziti, who does not question the basic plan of the statute, does however advance the same attack upon section 5.

In approaching the issues in this matter, we are mindful that we are dealing with a plan for the temporary reapportionment of the Legislature rather than its permanent structure. We appreciate also the practical problems involved in making a transition from the historical representative pattern in this State to one in which each county will no longer have an equal vote in one of the houses.

With respect to the first issue mentioned above, that the basic design of chapter 19 violates the doctrine of Reynolds v. Sims, we note that that case recognized the propriety of taking into account existing county lines in forming legislative election districts, provided the plan does not submerge the primary concept of equality of vote. If such lines are used, obviously the districts cannot be of equal population, and the deviations are likely to be larger than those incidental to the creation of original districts indifferent to existing or other political subdivisions. Such inequality as may be unavoidable because of the use of county lines may be offset by other considerations. One is that the drawing of original lines involves the problem of gerrymandering. Another is that counties do represent existing political, governmental and economic interests and thus constitute effective units for

representational purposes. In our first opinion we noted the importance of the county in the political and economic life of our State, 43 N.J., at pp. 462-463.

In indicating in our second opinion in this cause that the General Assembly as now constituted could continue for temporary purposes, we had in mind that while the deviations might well be too great in a permanent plan, those deviations would be tolerable in a transitional one,*fn1 if the total temporary plan were compatible with the objective of Reynolds v. Sims. In dealing ...

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