Politics of New Jersey

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New Jersey is one of the fifty United States states.

Political history[edit]

American Revolution[edit]

In 1776, the first Constitution of New Jersey was drafted. It was written during the Revolutionary War, and 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[1] 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.[2][3] 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 of 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.

On December 18, 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution, and on November 20, 1789, New Jersey became the first state in the Nation to ratify the Bill of Rights.

Nineteenth century[edit]

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.

Twentieth century[edit]

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 Democratic 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.

From 1992 on, New Jersey has voted for Democrats in every presidential election. Bill Clinton won a plurality of New Jersey's popular vote in 1992, and a majority of New Jersey's popular vote in 1996. New Jersey voters in the rural parts of the state that voted Republican tended to like very conservative Republicans while the suburbs tended to like liberal or moderate Republicans. The 1980s Asian-Americans immigrated to the northeastern and central parts of the state. These often voted Democratic.

Twenty-first century[edit]

Today, the state legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic, and has been since the early 2000s. As of December 2016, there are over 860,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.[4] Democrats do well in the populous counties closer to New York City and Philadelphia, like Essex and Camden counties as well as in Mercer County, which has the state capital Trenton. Republicans do well along the Jersey Shore and in northwestern counties, like Morris and Hunterdon.

Current issues[edit]

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, believed their workers were entitled to the pensions and healthcare promised to them in the past. Moderate Democrats and Republicans tended to believe that the state can no longer afford to pay for the benefits that it promised public workers in the past.[5][6]

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.[7][8] Because of that, Christie 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 policy issue. 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. Developers are pressuring the legislature to allow gambling in other parts of the state, like the Meadowlands. In 2014, New Jersey challenged the Professional & Amateur Sports Protection Act which had effectively grandfathered Nevada's federal statutory monopoly on legal sports betting. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the Appeals Court decision, removing the final barrier to New Jersey allowing sports betting. Justice Alito wrote the opinion supporting New Jersey's assertion that the PASPA infringed on State's Tenth Amendment rights in Murphy vs. Collegiate Athletic Association. The state quickly moved to capitalize on the ruling and allow sports-betting to occur at state-sanctioned sportsbooks at the Meadowlands Racetrack.[9]

In 2010, New Jersey legalized medical marijuana. The law to legalize the drug for medical use was passed by a Democratic regime, just before Christie took office. Christie had been skeptical of legalized medical marijuana. He subsequently vetoed or requested alterations to laws expanding New Jersey's program. There are two dispensaries in the state. This issue gained attention during the 2013 gubernatorial election, when the father of a young girl with epilepsy confronted Christie in a diner.

In 2014, the George Washington Bridge scandal sparked an outcry across the state and caused numerous investigations to be opened into the closure which was alleged to be an act of political retribution on behalf of Governor Chris Christie.[10] The state legislature, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the U.S. Senate all held hearings or opened investigations into the events. Ultimately, three people (David Wildstein, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Bill Baroni) connected to Governor Christe were indicted and convicted for their actions.[11]

LGBT rights and sexuality[edit]

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. Rhode Island, along with New Jersey, are the two states that permit adult incestual relationships.[12][13]

Gun control[edit]

New Jersey also has some of the most strict gun control laws in the United States. These include bans on assault firearms, hollow-nose bullets, and magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds. There is a permitting requirement to purchase any firearm, including shotguns, rifles, and handguns. No gun offense in New Jersey is graded less than a felony. BB guns, air guns, black-powder guns, and slingshots are all classified under statute as weapons. New Jersey does not recognize out-of-state gun licenses and enforces its own gun laws.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New Jersey Constitution of 1776". state.nj.us. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Connors, R. J. (1775). New Jersey's Revolutionary Experience [Pamphlet]. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Commission.
  4. ^ "Statewide Voter Registration Summary". New Jersey Division of Elections. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  5. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard. "N.J. Legislature Moves to Cut Benefits for Public Workers". nytimes.com. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Looks like time's up for New Jersey's pension fund". nypost.com. 14 January 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  7. ^ "State of New Jersey Debt Clock". www.usdebtclock.org. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  8. ^ "New Jersey Has the Worst Finances in the Nation, Report Says". observer.com. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  9. ^ Bagli, Charles; Piccoli, Sean. "For the First Time, Gamblers Bet on Sports at Meadowlands Racetrack". The New York Times. A. G. Sulzberger. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  10. ^ Strunsky, Steve. "Fort Lee mayor asserts GWB bridge closures had 'punitive overtones'". NJ.com. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  11. ^ Sherman, Ted; Arco, Matt. "Bridgegate verdict: Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly guilty on all counts". NJ.com. Advance Local Media LLC. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  12. ^ McDonnell, Brett. "Is Incest Next?." Cardozo Women's Law Journal 10.2 (2004).
  13. ^ Merkel, Dan (2009). Privilege Or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties. Oxford University Press. p. 196.
  14. ^ "N.J.A.C. Title 13 Chapter 54 - Firearms and Weapons" (PDF). New Jersey State Police. State of NJ Dep. of Law & Public Safety. Retrieved 7 February 2019.