An Idea to Make Presidential Candidates Pay Attention to NJ
TRENTON – A state lawmaker whose tenure expires in January is proposing a few significant overhauls to how elections and government work in New Jersey.
One of them, ending winner-take-all presidential elections in the state, has been proposed by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, since 2017 but hasn’t gained any traction. The other is a new idea and would change the composition of the Assembly, the lower house of the state Legislature.
Both would require voters to approve amendments to the state constitution. And DeCroce said each responds to concerns she hears from residents.
“You constantly hear people, you know, I hear people saying the election was stolen,” DeCroce said. “Your legislators don’t know all your constituents.”
For presidential elections, DeCroce wants New Jersey to stop awarding all the state’s Electoral College votes to the candidate who gets the most votes statewide. Instead, the winner in each congressional district should get that district’s electoral vote, with two going to the statewide winner for the votes New Jersey gets for its Senate seats.
DeCroce said that would attract candidate visits – and be fairer to voters.
“Say District 11 comes out for Trump. Then that should be a vote for Trump,” she said. “Why should it go winner-take-all? It shouldn’t. Doesn’t represent a true vote of the public.”
Only Maine and Nebraska award some of their electoral votes by congressional district.
Considering that Democrats have captured all of New Jersey’s electoral votes for eight straight elections, with Republicans last winning in 1988, it seems unlikely the state Legislature’s majority party would agree to put even a few at risk – three in 2020, five in 2016. DeCroce said that ignores people.
“The people should be represented in any presidential election and right now they’re not,” she said. “It’s only one party, in New Jersey.”
For state elections and government, DeCroce is suggesting that the state have 80 Assembly districts, rather than 40.
The state already has 80 Assembly members, with each of its 40 legislative districts electing one senator and two Assembly members. DeCroce said each of the 40 Senate districts should be subdivided into two Assembly districts, each electing one representative.
DeCroce said with smaller Assembly districts, voters would be more likely to be familiar with their Assembly member and know where to turn for help or contact their lawmaker.
“Not for anything, it’s better for the legislator, too, because he or she can concentrate more on the constituency in the district than to have to worry about the whole district,” DeCroce said.
For the upcoming decade, each legislative district will have about 232,000 residents after their boundaries are redrawn. Under the proposal, each senator’s district would then be split into two assembly districts with around 116,000 residents.
“It would be much better, constituent-wise, to have half of it,” said DeCroce.