The South Jersey Women for Progressive Change is an organization that seeks to engage in the work that elevates the voices of those that have been marginalized in South Jersey. A very key component to the work takes place in the political and legislative arenas that hold power over the structures that are currently in place to create space for all voices to be heard.
We are strongly opposed to SCR43, a proposal to amend the New Jersey State Constitution that would codify the partisan gerrymandering of our 40 legislative districts and pre-determine election outcomes for decades to come.
We advocate for access, transparency, and the dismantling of oppressive structures within New Jersey by taking a critical look at who holds the power in decision-making process. The past practice of manipulating district lines to favor one political party should not be cemented as a law in this state. Shifting the control of these lines from the political party chair to an elected official does not eliminate the bias that should not be allowed in this process. A political appointee, whether appointed or elected, is still a political appointee. Our concerns with the current ballot line structure confirm to us that this change to the commission would still not equate to the fairness that is a right of the voters in New Jersey.
SCR43 does not move us towards where we need to be, encouraging voter registration and turnout, increasing civic engagement, or provide pathways for our state representatives to truly represent the demographics of the people that live in the state, in our communities. The language in this proposal is unclear and is the antithesis of what is needed to engage our citizens and our youth,
We are fully cognizant of the personality battles that have been going on between factions of our elected representatives and in our viewpoint, this latest proposal is yet another chapter in that tale. We are asking for level-headed thinking from all members of the Senate to step back and realize that the state constitution is NOT the place to be hashing out these power struggles.
While New Jersey was once held up as a state that was a decent example of the process used for drawing district lines, there has always been room for improvement. However, SCR43 is not that improvement. We simply cannot allow leaders to wield this tool to protect political power, as it has been used in the past. It did not work well then, and it is negligent to try again.
Focusing on this issue rather than elevating the voices of communities of color, of our immigrant population, even of women across the state sends the message that you really do not care about them having a voice. It says “Use your voice to vote for me, then be quiet until I need you again.”
On behalf of the South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, I stand here and ask you to vote “No” on SCR43 and refuse to allow this proposal to come out of Committee.
This position was written by the SJWPC Board.
The failure to properly act on the knowledge of the accusation of sexual assault against Al Alvarez during his hiring process points to a failure in our structures of government and law that fail to protect victims while letting the accused proceed with life as usual.
As an organization of progressive women we echo and support Katie Brennan's message that this is unacceptable. She is deserving of justice. We support the Governor's call and commitment to leave no stone unturned in figuring out how to provide victims of sexual assault pathways to be protected, supported and most importantly heard and listened to. The independent investigation, Equal Employment Opportunity and Attorney General offices reviews must lead to real structural change to make sure that victims such as Katie are heard and that the accused are not given a free pass.
In addition, the hearings called by the Legislature have the potential to contribute to the progress we need to make. But we are calling upon the Legislature to not make this a political witch hunt but rather a substantive examination of the way women, and victims of sexual assault, are treated in NJ Government and law.
The New Jersey Legislature is comprised of 180 elected officials. Just barely 25% of the members are women. Only one woman has been Speaker of the House. No woman has ever held the position of Senate President. This remains a male bastion of power that cannot ignore the power dynamic that is created in this inequity.
We think it is essential that in the Legislative hearings on hiring practices, and treatment of sexual assault victims, they include themselves in the scope of the investigation.
What is the record of the NJ legislature in overlooking or looking the other way at accusations of assault, harassment and misconduct? How many Legislators have non-disclosure agreements signed to keep victims silent? How many of them have made it hard for a woman to find justice if a victim with any hope of keeping a job in a male dominated workplace? What pathways exist within the Legislative branch of NJ Government to report assault and protect victims in a political space?
Furthermore, we question the motives behind the appointment of Michael Critchley Sr as the investigating attorney. His ties to George Norcross leave room to surmise the potential political agenda behind this investigation as we continue to witness Steve Sweeney's attempts at diminishing the public's support of Governor Murphy to obstruct movement towards progressive changes that will benefit the people of New Jersey. The appointment of Michael Critchley Sr with a notorious history of victim blaming as evidenced in his defense of the Delbarton School, also lead to further questions around the actual motives and purpose of these hearings. If the Legislature is sincere in their interest to improve the pathway for all victims of assault, rather than a political assault on the Governor, the scope of the Legislative investigation must include an examination of their branch of government. We are calling on the 180 members of the Legislature to respect all women and take a good look in their own house as part of this process.
Only then can we begin to make real changes in the way government treats women, protects and respects victims and assures that justice is not out of reach.