They call it redistricting.
We call it voter suppression.
From the beginning, our campaign for New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District has focused on New Jersey’s ballot design and how the political machine here uses it to stay in power.
But instead of being ashamed, the establishment has doubled down on its losing strategy of dirty tricks and moderate politics. Now they’re trying to use the redistricting process to surgically cut me out of the district by moving my historically Black neighborhood from the majority-minority 10th to the majority white 11th district.
This type of backroom political maneuvering is gross for many reasons — not least because redistricting is supposed to make our democracy more representative, not less.
The town I live in, Montclair, is diverse but segregated. The southern portion, where I live, is mostly Black and is part of the 10th district — New Jersey’s only historically majority Black Congressional seat. The northern part of town is mostly white and represented by a white incumbent in the overwhelmingly white 11th district.
The establishment is concerned that NJ11’s white incumbent is vulnerable to a Republican challenger and that NJ10’s Black incumbent is vulnerable to a Black progressive (yours truly).
Their proposed solution is to take my neighborhood—which the machine sees as a reliable source of Democratic votes—and put it in a majority white district to boost potential Democratic votes.
But this proposal sacrifices Black political power at the altar of the white moderate. If the plan goes through, it will see my neighborhood go from being part of a powerful voting bloc with a say in who their representative is, to almost no power as a tiny minority of voters in NJ11.
And as if marginalizing communities of color wasn’t bad enough, this plan pits women against each other. I would be the first woman and first Black woman representative from my district to represent it at the federal level. By redistricting me into the 11th — currently represented by Mikie Sherrill who is one of only two women in New Jersey’s Congressional delegation — the Democratic machine is artificially placing a glass ceiling on how many women get to represent our state at any given time.
The kicker is that there are actually ways to spread the Democratic vote between the 10th and 11th districts without hurting Black political representation.
The establishment is well aware of the alternatives, but none of those have the added benefit of crushing a burgeoning progressive campaign.
We’re not going to let them win. As our campaign goes from strength to strength, we’re already seeing a popular reaction pushing back against the redistricting commissions’ corrupt proposals. But we need your support to maintain our momentum and to show the establishment that they can’t just sweep us under the rug.
This redistricting fight is happening all across the country right now, and every BNC candidate is being affected. You can help us fight back by splitting a contribution between BNC and my campaign.
If you are a New Jersey resident, please consider coming to speak at the next Redistricting Commission meeting. You can sign up here: Join Our Movement (ngpvan.com)
Imani Oakley was born and raised in New Jersey’s 10th District, and she’s been organizing for racial and economic justice her entire life.
A founding member of Movement School, Imani has mentored and coached a whole new generation of organizers. She has a solid track record as a fierce advocate for progressive policies like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, housing, living wages, and police reform and demilitarization.