Redistricting

LFDA Editor

New Hampshire, like all other states, must redraw its electoral districts every 10 years, making adjustments based on the population and demographic shifts tabulated in the U.S. Census. In addition to districts for U.S. House, districts and wards for the New Hampshire House, Senate, and governor's Executive Council were redrawn by the Legislature in 2012.

There wasn't any disagreement on the congressional districts.  The 1st Congressional District includes the area along the Maine border and into the Seacoast region. The 2nd District encompasses the southwestern part of the state and runs up along the Vermont border and into the North Country.

But, especially for the reapportionment of state House seats, there was significant controversy.

The terms of a 2006 ballot initiative stated: "When the population of any town or ward, according to the last federal census, is within a reasonable deviation from the ideal population for one or more representative seats, the town or ward shall have its own district of one or more representative seats."

The Republican-controlled Legislature came up with plans for the state House, Senate and Executive Council. While the Senate and Executive Council met with everyone's approval, including the governor's, the House plan met some headwinds when HB 592 (2012), the Republican leadership's plan for its new districts, passed both the House and Senate but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch. Lynch said the plan disenfranchised communities that should have received their own House representatives.

The House and Senate Republican majorities were large enough to override the veto, but opposition didn't stop there. Several groups, including some cities and towns, challenged the House redistricting plan in court for many of the same reasons cited by Lynch in his veto message. The cases were consolidated and fast-tracked to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The high court on June 19, 2012 ruled unanimously that the House plan did not violate the constitution.  

"The legislature had a choice to make: adhere to the 10 percent rule and give fewer towns, wards and places their own districts or exceed the 10 percent rule and give more towns, wards and places their own districts. This is a policy decision reserved to the Legislature," the Justices wrote.

Redistricting, in general, has a history of becoming very political, with the party in power redrawing lines in their favor. That is where the term "gerrymandering" comes from.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Establishes an independent redistricting commission, appointed by legislative leaders and the Secretary of State.

Interim Study

Establishes an independent redistricting commission, appointed by the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and legislative leaders.

Interim Study

Establishes an independent redistricting commission, appointed by the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and legislative leaders.

Killed in the Senate

Establishes a committee to determine if the most recent redistricting complies with the New Hampshire Constitution.

Veto Overridden

Redistricts the House of Representatives.

Signed by Governor

Redistricts the state Senate.

Signed by Governor

Redistricts the Executive Council.

Should New Hampshire keep the current redistricting process?

AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Issue Status

Efforts in the 2016 session of the state Legislature - one in the House and one in the Senate - to establish an independent commission on redistricting were effecitvely killed. The House proposal was contained in HB 1564, with was deemed inexpedient to legislate. The Senate measure was SB 425, but senators killed the proposal by moving to an interim study committee.Another round of redistricting isn't due for another five years.

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