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(Trenton)- Yesterday, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office announced that it would no longer pursue its appeal of the U.S. District Court’s ruling that found it unconstitutional to apply the one-year eligibility requirement in election years immediately following redistricting. The Honorable Dickinson R. Debevoise found that while the law is in place to prevent candidates from moving into an electorally favorable district shortly before an election, “during reapportionment years, the one-year requirement cannot possibly serve to… prevent carpetbagging when the constituency has only existed for seven months.” The case arose out of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling in the challenge to the 2011 election of Gabriela Mosquera, which the U.S. District Court found improperly overturned a prior ruling.
Following the District Court’s ruling, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office initially appealed the ruling. Assemblywoman Mosquera ran in a special legislative election in 2012 to continue to represent the constituents who elected her in 2011 and won her seat again with 60% of the vote. Yesterday, the Attorney General’s office announced that it would no longer pursue its appeal of the U.S. District Court’s ruling. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chairman of the Democratic State Committee, released the following statement:
“It does not seem to be a coincidence that the Attorney General’s office has finally dropped its meritless appeal after Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera won her election so decisively. It is shameful that the Attorney General’s office wasted time and taxpayer dollars in an attempt to invalidate the will of the voters.
From the beginning, this was a partisan effort by Republicans to litigate an election result that they didn’t like. The constituents of New Jersey’s 4th legislative district have now spoken twice in two years: they want Gabriela Mosquera to serve as their representative in the General Assembly.”
Last year, the legislative redistricting process was completed in April 2011. Candidates for the newly created districts were up for election that November. Gabriela Mosquera, candidate in the 4th legislative district, won her election to serve her community in the General Assembly. The losing candidate, after the election had already taken place, sued to overturn the election results claiming that Mosquera was ineligible because she had moved to her new home in the district 10 months before the election. The Attorney General’s office, under the direction of Governor Chris Christie, took the side of the losing candidate, citing state law that requires candidates live in a district for one year in order to be eligible for election.
However, 10 years earlier the federal U.S. District Court of New Jersey had declared application of the law unconstitutional, citing concerns about elections immediately following redistricting because the new districts had not even existed a year before. In February, the New Jersey Supreme Court ignored the federal court order, invalidated Mosquera’s election, but allowed her to be seated and represent her community in the Assembly until a special election could be held in November 2012. Following the February ruling, the Attorney General petitioned to have the federal court order that prohibited application of the residency requirement removed. The New Jersey Democratic State Committee, along with the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, the Latino Action Network, the Latino Coalition Of Monmouth County, Women’s Political Caucus of NJ, and the Latinas United For Political Empowerment Political Action Committee, represented by the firm of Weissman & Mintz in Somerset, asked the federal court to uphold its original decision that prohibited use of the one-year residency requirement in districts that had only been created seven months before. The ruling in June rejected the Attorney General’s request and held that the Supreme Court’s refusal to follow the federal court order had been improper. After that ruling, the Attorney General’s office appealed. Gabriela Mosquera was elected to the General Assembly again on November 6, 2012 with 60% of the vote. Yesterday, the Attorney General’s office announced that they would no longer pursue the appeal of the case.
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