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County working on redistricting consolidated towns

The Mercer County Board of Elections is currently working on election redistricting for the soon-to-be consolidated Princeton Borough and Township.

Under New Jersey State law, the elections board is required to draw up a new elections map and decide election districts for Princeton by Dec. 23.

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Current state law dictates that when there are two consecutive general elections where less than 250 or more than 750 votes are cast in a given district, redistricting is generally required to make the number of votes in each district more even.

The Borough and Township met these requirements and were supposed to have undergone redistricting last year.

However, the redistricting was postponed pending a decision on the then-potential consolidation.

Both municipalities approved consolidation in this month’s election.

The elections board will be hiring an engineering firm, whose identity has yet to be disclosed, to assist in creating new districts, noted Dominic Magnolo, Chairman of the Mercer County Board of Elections.

The board will be meeting with select members of the Joint Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission on Friday in order to address some of the questions and concerns that members of the commission have about redistricting.

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The board will also hold several open community forums in Princeton to address local questions and solicit input from residents, though the dates of these forums have yet to be determined.

Magnolo explained that, though the consolidation commission and local residents will be involved in the process, it is the sole responsibility of the four-member board to draw up the maps, approve them and send them to the Secretary of State of New Jersey for final approval.

As of now, the Borough has nine election districts and the Township has 14.

The University is currently split, not only between the Borough and Township but also between election districts, making voting a convoluted experience for University students.

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“I think the intention is to make it simpler for Princeton University students, but how that plays out with county regulations is impossible to tell as of now,” Anton Lahnston, chair of the consolidation commission, said.

“A lot of this process is not as clear as we would like it to be,” he added.

“We are hopeful that we are going to be able to work through the process with the county in a very productive way.”

For example, it is unclear how districts will change, as the board has yet to meet with the engineer, though Magnolo noted that certain requirements must be met by the new elections map, as districts must be compact and contiguous while district boundary lines have to follow streets or physical geographical features.

As the process is still in its early stages, there are also several questions surrounding when and how the reevaluated districts will take effect.

Lahnston noted that it is unknown how redistricting will be implemented considering the ongoing consolidation efforts and whether the new districts will take effect in 2012 or in 2013, when the Princetons are expected to have joined into one municipality.

Yet he explained that the number of districts in Princeton will likely be reduced, especially considering that the Borough and Township will soon be united into one municipality.

“This is the perfect opportunity to make better, unified voting districts for the new Princeton,” he added.

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