Politics of New Jersey
Politically New Jersey is considered one of the more liberal states in the nation.[who?]
In 1776, the first Constitution of New Jersey was drafted. It was written during the Revolutionary War, and was created a basic framework for the state government. The constitution granted the right of suffrage to women and black men who met certain property requirements. The New Jersey Constitution of 1776 allowed "all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money" to vote. This included blacks, spinsters, and widows; married women could not own property under the common law. The Constitution declared itself temporary, and it was to be void if there was reconciliation with Great Britain. Both parties in elections mocked the other party for relying on "petticoat electors" and accused the other of allowing unqualified women to vote.
In the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall of Princeton University. It had convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but mutinous troops prevented the meeting from taking place. Princeton became the temporary capital for the nation for four months. During the brief stay in Princeton, the Continental Congress was informed of the end of the war by the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783.
The second version of the New Jersey State Constitution was written in 1844. The constitution provided the right of suffrage only to white males, removing it from women and black men. Some of the important components of the second State Constitution include the separation of the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The new constitution also provided a bill of rights. Underneath the constitution, people had the right to elect the governor.
Following World War II, New Jersey was a Republican-leaning swing state in presidential elections. From the 1948 presidential election to the 1988 presidential election, Republican candidates won 9 out of 11 times; John F. Kennedy won New Jersey in 1960 by 22,000 votes, and Lyndon B. Johnson won New Jersey in 1964 as a part of his landslide victory. Although New Jersey had several highly populated Democrat-dominated urban areas like Camden, Newark, and Jersey City, the state was also becoming home to many suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia. Voters in suburban New Jersey were overwhelmingly white, and were more likely to vote Republican. From 1943 to 1979, New Jersey was represented in the US Senate by a Democrat and a Republican.
Beginning in 1992, New Jersey has voted for Democrats in every presidential election. Bill Clinton won a plurality of New Jersey's popular vote in 1992, and in 1996, became the first Democrat in 32 years to win a majority of New Jersey's popular vote. The shift in New Jersey's presidential politics reflected how the politics of the Republican Party had become out of step with the politics of New Jersey. New Jersey voters had always preferred moderate or liberal Republicans, and by the 1990s, the Republican Party had become too conservative for many New Jerseyans. Additionally, the 1980s saw the beginning of an influx of Asian immigrants to the northeastern and central parts of the state. These New Jerseyans tend to prefer Democrats.
Today, the state legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic, and has been since the early 2000s. There are 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Democrats do well in the populous counties closer to New York City and Philadelphia, like Essex and Camden counties. Republicans do well along the Jersey Shore and in northwestern counties, like Morris and Hunterdon.
For the past decade, the most contentious issue in New Jersey has been the conflict between the state government and the public-sector unions. The unions, aligned with more liberal Democrats, believe their workers are entitled to the pensions and healthcare promised to them in the past. Moderate Democrats and Republicans tend to believe that the state can no longer afford to pay for the benefits that it promised public workers in the past.
The state's budget is another fiercely debated issue. Prior to Republican Governor Chris Christie taking office in 2009, the state regularly borrowed money to technically avoid deficits. Over the years, this practice generated a large amount of debt. Because of that, Governor Christie has refused to borrow money to cover shortfalls, and has instead demanded the state legislature agree to budget cuts. The question of whether or not public workers should bear the burden of budget cuts deeply divides the state.
Legalized gambling is also a matter. In 2011, Governor Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney promised to limit gambling to Atlantic City for "at least five years," in order to protect the struggling tourist destination from intrastate competition. Many developers are pressuring New Jersey politicians to allow gambling in other parts of the state, like the Meadowlands.
Since 2010, New Jersey has legalized medical marijuana. The law to legalize the drug for medical use was passed by Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, shortly before Chris Christie took office. Governor Christie has been skeptical of legalized medical marijuana, and has vetoed or requested alterations to laws expanding New Jersey's program. There are only two dispensaries in the state. This issue gained attention during the 2013 gubernatorial election, when the father of a young girl with epilepsy confronted Governor Christie in a diner.
Recently, the George Washington Bridge scandal has attracted a great deal of attention. The Democrat-controlled state legislature has been holding investigative hearings on the scandal since January 2014, but has yet to directly link Governor Christie to the lane closures.
In April 2004, New Jersey enacted a domestic partnership law, which is available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples aged 62 and over. During 2006, the Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered the state to provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. In 2007, New Jersey became the third state in the U.S. (the other two being Connecticut and Vermont) to offer civil unions to same-sex couples. In 2013, the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that the state must allow same sex couples to marry. Previously, a 2010 last minute attempt to legalize same sex marriage under departing Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, failed because of the objections of Senate President Steve Sweeney, also a Democrat. From 2010 to 2013, Governor Christie vetoed attempts by the state legislature to legalize same sex marriage. Since the 2013 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, three separate government-recognized relationships are now in effect in the state: domestic partnerships, civil unions, and marriage.
New Jersey also has some of the most stringent gun-control laws in the U.S. These include bans on assault firearms, hollow-nose bullets and even slingshots. No gun offense in New Jersey is graded less than a felony. BB guns and black-powder guns are all treated as modern firearms. New Jersey does not recognize out-of-state gun licenses and aggressively enforces its own gun laws.
- Government of New Jersey
- Political party strength in New Jersey
- Elections in New Jersey
- Law of New Jersey
- New Jersey Constitution of 1776
- Klinghoffer and Elkis. "The Petticoat Electors: Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776–1807." Journal of the Early Republic, 12, no. 2 (1992): 159–193.
- Connors, R. J. (1775). New Jersey's Revolutionary Experience [Pamphlet]. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Commission.