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Study Says NJ May Lose House Seat In 2010

This story was written by Scott Lazes, Daily Targum

New Jersey faces a possible reduction in seats for the United States House of Representatives after 2010, which may affect both parties and require district lines to be redrawn, according to a recent study.

Headed by University Professor Ernest C. Reock, Jr., the study was conducted after the United States Census Bureau released 2010 projections, finding insufficient population growth patterns characterizing New Jersey compared to other states.

"States like Texas and Florida are growing very rapidly, but New Jersey has only grown 3.5 percent from 2000 to 2005," said Reock, the former director of the Center for Government Services at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. "The national average is between 5 and 6 percent."

But New Jersey is not shrinking, Reock said. Rather, it is growing more slowly than other states.

The number of seats each state holds depends on that state's population and a reduction in New Jersey's population will hurt the state, Reock said. Fewer seats in the House will result in a softer voice in national affairs.

Reock said the main purpose of his study is to outline the procedures used to draw the district lines.

Some districts will be too large in 2010 and others will be too small, so the lines will have to be redrawn, he said.

But that all depends on whether the United States Census Bureau concludes the state still has 13 districts or if it must be cut down to 12, said Reock, who remains hopeful N.J. will maintain 13 House seats.

Compared to New Jersey, less populated states are growing more because they have the most room to grow, said Eagleton Institute of Politics Professor Alan Rosenthal.

Rosenthal is also less optimistic about the upcoming 2010 Census.

"Reock thinks we may keep a seat, but I think we will lose a seat," he said.

Rosenthal said he attributes other states' better climates and economic opportunities to why fewer people are moving to New Jersey and why some are leaving the state.

"It's expensive to live in New Jersey, and there aren't a heck of a lot of opportunities for many people, so you find a lot of people moving out of New Jersey," Rosenthal said.

In addition to having less political clout in Washington, Rosenthal said fewer seats in the House may create problems within the state as well.

"It makes the redistricting process more contentious or difficult because you've got to eliminate a congressional district, which means eliminating one of the members of Congress, unless one is retiring at the time," Rosenthal said.

In the past, the state has had as many as 15 seats in the House.

The state lost a district in 1990, reducing it to 13 seats and districts, and by 2000, the state had retained all 13.

New Jersey's districts, established in 1931, remained the same despite population shifts until the state gained an additional House seat after the Census of 1960, according to a University Media Relations news release.

After the 1990 Census, the state legislature created a temporary 13-member New Jersey Redistricting Commission to handle allotment of seats being reduced from 14 to 13, according to the news release. The temporary commission was replaced following the ratification of a 1995 Constitutional Amendment.

But Reock said he remains optimistic.

"We probably will squeak through and hold on," Reock said.