For affirmance -- Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None. Chief Justice Wilentz did not participate.
[125 NJ Page 376] The issue in this declaratory-judgment action is whether census data received by the Governor on or about January 24 and 30, 1991, constitute the "official decennial census" within the meaning of article IV, section 3, paragraph 1, of the State
Constitution. Appellants filed notices of appeal on February 22, 1991, and we promptly certified the appeals on our own motion. See Rule 2:12-1. After reviewing the record and briefs that had been submitted to the Law Division, we heard oral argument on February 25, 1991. Our expedited disposition of the appeals allows for implementation of the subject constitutional provision concerning legislative apportionment. Further delay might have jeopardized the conduct of primary and general elections in accordance with currently-existing statutes and constitutional provisions. We determine that the census data received by the Governor on or about January 24 and 30, 1991, constitute the "official decennial census" for purposes of invoking the subject apportionment provisions of the State Constitution.
For purposes of this appeal, we draw generally on the background developed in the Law Division proceedings.
Under the State Constitution, the responsibility for drafting a legislative-apportionment plan following a federal decennial census is vested in a ten-member Apportionment Commission normally composed of five Democrats and five Republicans. The Commission is required to certify to the Secretary of State a plan establishing election districts for the State Senate and General Assembly "within one month of the receipt by the Governor of the official decennial census of the United States for New Jersey." N.J. Const. of 1947 art. IV, § 3, para. 1. In the event a majority of the Commission cannot agree on and certify a plan to the Secretary of State in a timely manner, the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court is authorized to appoint an eleventh member. Id., para. 2. The Commission then has an additional month within which to certify a plan to the Secretary of State to be used to elect Senators and members of the General Assembly.
On or about January 24, 1991, Governor Florio received from the federal Census Bureau the census data derived from the
1990 count. However, in a January 30, 1991, letter regarding those data and "census maps" sent under separate cover, Marshall L. Turner, Jr., the Chief of the 1990 Census Redistricting Data Office, Bureau of the Census, informed Governor Florio that although the transmitted data "fulfill[ ] the requirements of Title 13, U.S.C. 141(c) [a federal statute relating to the census,] [t]he population counts are subject to possible correction for undercount or overcount."
The Attorney General contends, without disagreement from any other party, that Chief Turner's reason for adding the above-quoted caveat is that under a stipulation order entered in certain federal litigation pending in the Eastern District of New York, City of New York v. United States Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau had agreed to consider "adjusting" its current figures in recognition of claims that the data might reflect a substantial undercount of minority populations. Chief Turner's letter recited that "[t]he United States Department of Commerce is considering whether to correct these counts and will publish corrected counts, if any, not later than July 15, 1991."
The scope of the practical problems is illustrated by the fact that the State Constitution requires New Jersey's bipartisan Apportionment Commission to draw the district lines within one month of the Governor's receipt of the official decennial census. If the official figures are used and later adjusted, districts used in primary elections might have to be changed for the general election in November. On the other hand, if the Commission waits until July 15, 1991, for receipt of any possible corrections, it might be August 15th before a tiebreaker could be appointed under the constitutional provision, and then possibly September 15th before the tie breaker could bring about the development of an apportionment plan. Under current statutory filing schedules, see, e.g., N.J.S.A. 19:23-14, it realistically would be impossible to conduct primary and general elections on that timetable.
Some understanding of the history of the constitutional provisions will aid in our decision. The general history of this is well set forth in Professor Robert F. Williams' The New Jersey State Constitution, at 60-63 (1990) (hereinafter "Williams"), which we summarize here. In Jackman v. Bodine, 43 N.J. 453, 205 A.2d 713 (1964), this Court ruled that the provisions of the State Constitution of 1947 establishing a Senate composed of one member from each county and a sixty-member Assembly in which the counties were represented generally according to their population were unconstitutional as a violation of the United States Supreme Court's one-person, one-vote decision in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1964). In Jackman, the Court concluded that a Constitutional Convention might be convened, without a vote of the people on its necessity. The 1966 Constitutional Convention proposed that the ...