Stories posted earlier today:
House Members Sit ‘Mask Optional’ and ‘Mask Required’ At Manchester Hotel Session
N.H. Lawmakers Sustain Governor’s Vetoes
House Refuses To Kill or Pass Legalizing Marijuana
By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
MANCHESTER — The House voted largely down party lines to approve redrawing three of the state’s political boundaries along plans developed by the Republican majority during its opening session Wednesday at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester.
The controversial plan for the state’s two Congressional districts makes major changes moving about 25 percent of the state’s population from one district to the other.The change is expected to create one Republican leaning district and one Democratic leaning district, while both districts now have Democratic U.S. Representatives.
The Republican plan would create a district that stretches from the southwestern corner of the state to the southeastern corner with a reconfigured district in the lower middle part of the state.
The changes would move the largely Democratic communities in the Seacoast like Portsmouth, Dover and Durham from the 1st to the 2nd District and move the Republican communities along the Massachusetts border like Salem and Windham from the 2nd to the 1st District.
Democrats proposed a plan that would have moved the town of Hampstead from the 1st to the 2nd District to adjust for the 18,000 more residents in the 1st District according to the 2020 U.S. Census data.
Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, said the GOP plan is intended to predetermine the outcome of elections.
“(The change) would therefore deny voters of this state the opportunity to decide for themselves,” Smith said. “I believe that this body is better than that.”
Voters have a say every two years, whether Democrat or Republican, who will represent them, she said, and asked her colleagues to reject the majority’s plan so a better plan could be developed.
But Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Windham, said the redrawn districts would better represent the state’s political makeup and not “disenfranchise” the 45 percent who are Republicans as the current districts do.
“Which is fairer,” he asked. “Disenfranchising 45 percent of Republicans or two percent of Democrats? The answer is obvious.”
Democrats have controlled the congressional delegation after the last two elections, but the 1st District changed hands between Democrats and Republicans for a decade before that.
Democrats noted the two congressional districts had not changed substantially since they were first created in 1880, and there was just one person who testified in favor of the plan while many more opposed it.
“In New Hampshire we like to vote for our elected officials every two years, we are unique in the nation,” Smith said. “That is one of our great strengths, we offer everyone a level playing field.”
She noted that is one of the reasons, along with being a purple state, that New Hampshire has the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
But Ross Berry, R-Manchester, said when new maps are drawn lawmakers should not start with the current districts but should seek to be fair to all.
“If you look at the original versions (of the congressional districts) you would not recognize them today,” he said. “The original maps were intended to dilute the Catholic vote, that is why Manchester and Nashua are in two different districts.”
The House voted 186-164 to approve the GOP’s congressional plan.
The House passed plans to redraw the House districts and County Commissioner seats in nine of the state’s 10 counties — Strafford elects its three commissioners at large — on similar votes.
Attempts to postpone votes on the House and Congressional district maps failed on a tie vote with the House Speaker voting to create the tie and by one vote after the House voted to take the bills up today instead of at the end of the calendar Friday.
During the debate on the House districts, Democrats said their plan would give more communities their own representative as required by the state constitution, has smaller and fewer floterial districts and better group communities of interest.
But Republicans said their plan meets all federal and state constitutional requirements and better addresses a statewide plan than their counterparts.
The plan’s redrawing of the 400 House seats had agreement between Democrats and Republicans on plans for Belknap, Grafton and Sullivan counties, but not for the other seven counties.
Democrats said the Republicans’ plan short changes the state’s largest city, Manchester, which should have 33 or 34 representatives, but would have only 32 under the GOP proposal.
However, Republicans said their plan is not just centered on counties and cities and towns, and does not favor some communities to the detriment of others.
The House redistricting plan was approved on a 186-168 vote, while the county commissioner districts passed on a 184-159 vote.
The three bills now go to the Senate.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.