The New Jersey Constitutional Convention of 1966
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The New Jersey Constitutional Convention of 1966 rewrote legislative articles, bringing modern concepts of equal representation permanently to the state and paving the way for a greatly enhanced state government role. Established by a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature under court order, the convention included an equal number of delegates from each party, but required only a simple majority for action. Party discipline thus became paramount and party leaders at the convention—mostly legislators—struggled to hold their delegates in line. Rank-and-file efforts for innovative reforms were opposed by both leaderships. With a stalemate appearing inevitable, the two party leaderships eventually combined to reach a compromise and then fight off dissidents on each side. Although the product of the convention underwent some modification by the courts in subsequent years, the procedures established in 1966 have governed the composition of the legislature and its periodic revision after every census since then.
Written in lively prose by a veteran observer of New Jersey's political history, this book examines the events leading to the convention, the selection of delegates, the political maneuvering during the convention's course, and the revision and implementation of its proposals over the next three decades. The study is based on the documentary and press record, on extensive interviews with delegates at the beginning and end of the sessions, on interviews with surviving political leaders, and on the author's own observations as a staff member of the convention. Local and state government officials, political scientists, lawyers, and historians will find this eyewitness account of a unique moment in history a most interesting read.