That time South Jersey almost seceded and became the 51st state
There is a great case to be made for South Jersey becoming a different state. First of all, geographically, it just makes sense. We have a perfect dividing line in I-195 straight across the state as the crow flies.
To my knowledge, there is no other state that can be split into two distinct entities the way New Jersey can. South Jersey, of course, sees the "big city" as Philadelphia and is shaped by their media and culture. Everything above I-195, which can be considered North Jersey (and we all know that’s debatable but that’s an argument for a different post), is shaped by the media market that covers it, New York City, and its accompanying culture.
It started out kind of as a joke, but in 1980, it actually became a non-binding referendum for six counties to vote on. Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean and Salem Counties would decide. All but Ocean voted to secede.
The idea began in the mid-1970s and would’ve created “South Jersey,” the 51st state, with a population at the time of 1.7 million people. The state would have been created with its geographical border right below I-195 and the Manasquan River.
The idea of state secession is not unprecedented. As a matter of fact, it actually happened back in 1820, when Maine was established as its own state after having been a non-contiguous part of Massachusetts.
It’s amazing to think how close we were to becoming two different states. Unofficially, we are anyway. With all of our distinct differences, I’m sure there are many people who would believe it’s time to resurrect this idea.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi Franco’s own.