News from the Somerset County Board of Elections
Contact: Jerry L. Midgette, Esq., Administrator / 908.231.7084 / electionbd@co.somerset.nj.us
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March 1, 2011


Somerset County Board of Elections Approves
Realignment of Election District Boundaries
76 Districts Affected in 13 Municipalities

           The Somerset County Board of Elections has unanimously approved the adjustment of 76 election district boundaries located in 13 of the county’s 21 municipalities. Affected voters will be notified by mail in April, prior to the annual school boards election.  Visit the Board of Elections website at www.co.somerset.nj.us/elections for additional information as it is posted.

The election districts in those 13 municipalities needed boundary adjustments due either to excessive voter registration counts or low voter turnout. The approved boundary adjustments were compelled by Title 19 of the New Jersey Election Laws.  The law requires an election district to be split if the total voter registration count in that district exceeds 750 registered voters.  Title 19 also requires any election district that has a voter turnout of less than 250 voters for two consecutive general elections to be combined with a contiguous election district.

Election Districts Analyzed

Each of the county’s 263 election districts was analyzed to determine statutory compliance. More than 25 percent of the election districts were identified as needing boundary adjustments.  In all, 32 election districts in eight municipalities had to be split or their boundaries adjusted.

“Each of the 32 election districts that were split had voter registration totals significantly greater than the statutory maximum,” said Election Board Administrator Jerry L. Midgette, Esq.  Those districts were located in Bedminster, Bernards, Bound Brook, Bridgewater, Franklin, Green Brook, Hillsborough and Montgomery.

Forty-four election districts in 11 municipalities had to be merged with a contiguous election district due to consistently low voter turnout. “The low voter turnout districts were fully merged with contiguous election districts in some cases and partly merged with two or more election districts in others to achieve the optimum voter registration totals,” Midgette said.

The low voter turnout election districts were located in Bedminster, Bernards, Bound Brook, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Franklin, Hillsborough, Manville, North Plainfield, Raritan and Somerville. 

Municipalities Provided Comments

Each of the 13 municipal clerks were notified and provided a copy of a map identifying those election districts that needed boundary adjustments. They were each requested to provide comments and recommendations as to how best to make the statutorily required boundary adjustments.

“We wanted to ensure that local concerns and knowledge were considered and incorporated where appropriate to accomplish our objective,” said Midgette.

Using GIS mapping technology, each municipal clerk was provided a visual presentation of their new election district map prior to presenting the maps to the Board of Elections for final approval. Many of the municipal clerks expressed appreciation for the service the board provided during this process.

“Absent the significant support provided to the municipalities by the board and the county MIS Division, the towns would have been required to assume a greater role,” said Midgette. At the board meeting, Bernards Municipal Clerk/Assistant Administrator Denise Szabo echoed the sentiments of many of her colleagues when she said, “I am pleased with the process conducted for reviewing and adjusting the Bernards election district map.”                 

            After all adjustments to the election district boundaries are completed and the new maps approved, the county’s voter registration database will be updated to assign the affected voters to their new election districts and/or poll locations. Each voter receiving a new district assignment and/or poll location assignment will be mailed a formal notification of the change prior to the annual school boards election in April.

Midgette said he will be developing and implementing a comprehensive voter notification plan to ensure minimal confusion or disruption to voters as a result of the new election district and poll location assignments. “I will also be coordinating the board’s voter notification efforts with each of the municipal clerks of the impacted municipalities,” he said.   

First To Use Geocoding     

The Somerset County Board of Elections, with support from the county MIS Division, has become the first county in New Jersey to successfully couple GIS technology with a “geocoded” voter database.

“The redistricting project was the realization of an opportunity to utilize GIS technology to support our county Board of Elections,” said GIS Coordinator Jim Girvan, GISP/AICP. “The MIS Division identified and planned for this when it designed its GIS system in 2005.  It is rewarding to see that the foresight has paid off and that once again the technology has yielded benefits where we knew it could.”

In pursuit of realizing the maximum benefits of utilizing GIS technology in election district management, the board committed to completing the process of locating the address of a registered voter to a particular property point within the county (otherwise known as “geocoding”). This process essentially transformed the county’s voter registration database into a geocoded voter database.

“Coupling the geocoded voters with our existing GIS capability created a tremendously effective and precise tool which was used to accomplish the approved election district boundary adjustments. We now have the capability to be extremely precise in locating and selecting a number of voters within a given area and redrawing or adjusting an election district boundary to include those voters,” said Midgette.

"The coupling of GIS technology with geocoded voters has given us a powerful and invaluable tool to utilize in the election district management process,” he said.  “We will also utilize this tool to perform the necessary re-warding activity in the Township of Franklin after the June 7 primary election. The coupling of cutting-edge mapping technology with a geocoded voter database is quite novel in Somerset County as well as the rest of the state.”