By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Redistricting maps for the five-member Executive Council districts and 24-member state Senate districts passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives Thursday despite Democratic contention that the maps represent gerrymandering.
They are essentially the same maps that passed the Republican-controlled State Senate and now go to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk for consideration.
Republicans said the maps meet constitutional requirements. Sununu has urged lawmakers to bring him competitive districts.
Senate Bill 240, related to the Senate map passed 172-149 and Senate Bill 241, with respect to the Executive Council district passed 174-146.
Every ten years, the political maps for each state need to be redrawn based on the latest census data.
The parties in control of the legislation during those decade changes have the advantage of drawing maps that they may believe are advantageous to their re-election.
At public hearings in each of the state’s 10 counties this winter, voters said they want to keep these districts intact, keep cities together and not stretch out from one end of the state to the other among communities that have little in common.
Republicans said there is a gentleman’s agreement between the two chambers to develop certain maps. Democrats said the maps, the ones drawn by the Senate, don’t meet those public objectives.
State Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said when she looks at the State Senate redistricting map it is “the very picture of gerrymandering.”
She said the maps split counties unnecessarily and pairs towns with little in common. Plus, she said the maps are sprawling and confusing.
But Rep. Robert Lynn, R-Windham, former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said the Constitutional requirements are met.
On the executive council map, Democrats said it splits nine of the 10 state counties.
House Democratic Leader Rep. David E. Cote, D-Nashua, said after the vote that the maps passed do not meet public objectives.
“Last year, the legislature made a big deal of holding public input sessions where Granite Staters explained their priorities in the redistricting process. Those public input sessions were clearly a waste of time because in drawing their maps, the Republican majority ignored everything the public asked for.”
He also noted Sununu “has an obligation to veto these gerrymandered maps.”