Sununu redistricting map for congressional districts sparks concern

Gov. Chris Sununu released a map last week with his idea of ​​what New Hampshire’s two congressional districts should look like for the next 10 years – a more competitive proposal than the Republican-backed version he has repeatedly swore to veto.

And while fair map advocates agree that Sununu’s map would create a fairer playing field for politicians, regardless of party, they point to a different problem: the uneven distribution of the state’s population between the two. districts, which could lead to a lawsuit. And they worry about the impact of local maps dividing Executive Council and legislative seats on state politics and local elections, as lawmakers continue to fight over what those electoral districts will look like over the course of the year. of the next decade.

The governor's proposal would bring coastal Democratic strongholds back into the 1st Congressional District, making the two districts more competitive.

“I think this proposal is much better than the Republican proposal. I do believe there are better maps out there though,” Dave Andrews said of Sununu’s Congress map. Andrews is a data analyst for Redistricting Data Hub, a nonpartisan organization that hosts redistricting data for free.

Sununu’s map maintains coastal Democratic strongholds such as Dover, Durham and Portsmouth in the 1st Congressional District, making both districts more competitive against the Republican-backed map. Currently, both districts are competitive, with the 1st district being slightly Republican with towns like Candia and Alton and the 2nd district being slightly Democratic.

Under Sununu’s proposal, the 1st District would become about 1% more Republican than it currently is and the 2nd District would become 1% more Democratic, according to Andrews’ analysis.

This is the Republican-backed proposal for congressional districts, where the 1st district leans Republican and the 2nd district leans Democratic.

The Republican proposal, by contrast, would make the 1st District about 7% more Republican, he said.

“It’s clearly a compromise,” he said.

The problem is that the population differs from district to district by 1,431 people, a very high number, Andrews said, in light of federal requirements that congressional districts be as close together as possible. It would be easy to bridge that gap by swapping Loudon and Epsom, bringing the difference down to 53 without changing the partisan makeup of the districts, Andrews said. He doesn’t think that difference would be overturned in court, but 1,431 might be.

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Redistricting is a complex and time-consuming process with high stakes as it determines electoral districts, and a fair redistricting process is particularly important at a time when confidence in elections and democratic institutions is at its lowest in decades. .

“The integrity of our election has been called into question, and I think when we’re playing games or editing lines, it’s hard for people to have faith in the democratic process,” Olivia Zink said. , executive director of Open Democracy Action, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for fair elections.

Although much of the focus has been on the Congress map, it is only one of five maps the legislature is tasked with redrawing. And lawmakers are under a deadline. Candidates must file their intention to run for office by June – so lawmakers must establish what those districts are by then.

Senate approves GOP-backed Executive Council map

Current congressional districts are considered competitive.

Last Thursday, the state Senate advanced the Republican-backed map for the Executive Council, which includes a publicly announced amendment just a day before it was passed. The biggest changes are to Districts 1 and 2, which are currently held by Councilman Joe Kenney, a Union Republican, and Councilman Cinde Warmington, a Concord Democrat, respectively.

The public should have been given the opportunity to comment on the cards, Zink said. “These are the districts for the next 10 years, and shame on the Senate for not allowing public hearings on those,” she said.

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The Executive Council does not get the attention given to the House and Senate, but its decisions are consistent. Advisors approve gubernatorial nominees, including those for the courts, and all contracts over $10,000 and up. He recently rejected family planning contracts for low-income residents.

The current Executive Council District 2 has been widely cited as an example of gerrymandering. Critics call it a dragon or a serpent because it stretches from New Hampshire’s border with Vermont – bringing together Democratic-leaning towns across the width of the state, including Keene, Concord and Dover – to the coast.

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Initially, the Republican-controlled redistricting committee proposed leaving the Executive Council districts unchanged.

Sen. James Gray, a Republican from Rochester, said his proposed changes would address that concern.

The Senate adopted this version of the Executive Council map on Thursday.  The map will now head home.

“This removes the tail that ran through the middle of the state to the state’s coast,” Gray told other lawmakers during the Senate session.

This proposal seemed to satisfy the governor. “One of the biggest criticisms of the current Executive Council map is that it had this weird snake and discontinuity of cities. a press conference on Wednesday.

Democratic senators disagree and say the new proposal is worse than the original. “Instead of eliminating gerrymandered District 2, this amendment doubles the number of gerrymandered districts,” said Senator Rebecca Perkins-Kwoka, a Portsmouth Democrat.

Andrews agreed. He found that District 2 became 3.2% more Democratic, with Democrats in the Hanover area, while most other districts became more Republican. District 5, he found, remained about the same in terms of partisan leanings. District 1, he found, would move 2.3% more Republicans; District 3 would change 6.4% more Republican; and District 4, 4.6% more Republicans.

After a Democratic counterproposal was defeated along party lines, the Senate passed Gray’s amendment in a voice vote. They will now proceed to the Chamber, where there will be a public hearing.

The House will also vote on whether to override Sununu’s veto on the congressional district map, which would require a two-thirds majority.

House and county commissioners cards become law

This is the current map of the five Executive Council districts of the state.  All but District 2 are Republican-held.

Sununu signed the Republican-backed maps for House districts last week, and the county commissioner’s maps also became law earlier in March.

But these cards can also face combat. “I would expect legal challenges on any proposed cards,” Zink said.

A major stumbling block for the House map, according to Zink and Andrews: Towns with enough people to merit their own representative did not receive one.

Andrews said 14 cities that should have had a dedicated representative did not. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was challenged in court and actually overturned by a court,” he said.

The 14 towns are Barrington, Bow, Canaan, Chesterfield, Dover, Hanover, Hinsdale, Hooksett, Milton, New Ipswich, Newton, Plaistow, Rochester and Wilton.

This story was originally posted by New Hampshire Bulletin.

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