By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
The voting is over although the final outcome for control of the House will not be official until the 16 recounts are finished at the end of next week.
The Senate and Executive Council remain firmly in Republican control although the results would have been different had they not been gerrymandering more than they already were 10 years ago.
The redistricting plans approved down party lines for the Senate and Executive Council seats should give Republicans more Senate seats and four safe Executive Council seats for the next decade.
However, the residents of New Hampshire need to be congratulated for setting a non-presidential election year or midterm election record, breaking the one set four years ago.
On Tuesday 626,256 people voted, including 58,527 by absentee ballot, although not as many as in 2020 when more than 260,000 voters submitted absentee ballots due mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic which kept many at home.
Secretary of State David Scanlan predicted 591,000 voters would turn out Tuesday while 35,256 more voters ventured to the polls or voted by absentee ballots in the record breaking election.
The voter turnout Tuesday was somewhere near 70 percent of those on the checklist, which the Tuesday before the election had 883,035 names, with 278,681 registered as Democrats, 276,034 as Republicans and 328,320 undeclared.
With same day registration and the recent purge of the checklist, which is required every 10 years, the number of registered voters is probably tens of thousands higher than a week before the election.
In the 2018 election, with a greater number of voters on the checklist, the percentage of those who voted was 57.5 percent.
The 2018 vote was a reaction to the first two years of the Trump administration and did not have him at the top of the ticket to bring out his true believer, while the 2022 election had a number of issues to drive voters to the polls, both Republicans and Democrats.
There were several huge issues for Democrats particularly reproductive rights and other fundamental rights like same sex marriage and contraception with the US Supreme Court overturning its earlier Roe Vs Wade decision making abortion a fundamental right.
Another major issue was preserving democracy as it has been in place since the days of Roosevelt’s New Deal, as well as combating misinformation about election frauds and voter suppression.
Republicans focused on the economy and inflation, and what they said was the Democrats’ slide toward socialism and issues like parental rights.
But when the smoke cleared Tuesday night — or almost cleared depending on recounts — Republicans were able to maintain control of the State House from governor to the House, while Democrats had total control of federal offices as they have had for the last six years.
What were supposed to be razor thin races for US Senate and the 1st Congressional seat, instead were healthy margins for the incumbent Democrats.
Once again New Hampshire will send Democrats to Washington while Republicans will control the State House.
However, to say Republicans have a mandate would be very misleading as would talk of their policies being popular with New Hampshire voters.
The only clean Republican victory came in the governor’s race where incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Tom Sherman by a sizable margin.
In the Executive Council, state Senate and state House races, Democratic candidates received more votes than their Republican counterparts, but will still be in the minority.
All five current members won reelection to maintain the Republican’s 4-1 majority on the council.
This is the council that has refused to fund health contracts for poor families for Planned Parenthood, because four of the councilors reject a Department of Health and Human Services required report the organization and several others that provide abortion services that segregated state money from the money used to provide abortion services.
They have rejected the contracts a number of times along with once routine contracts to teach sex education to at-risk students in Manchester and Claremont. The same councilors have approved the contracts in the past.
The four Republicans also held up federal money to expand the state’s COVID-19 vaccination programs at a critical time when youngsters were about to receive their first shots and elderly their first boosters causing delays in rolling out those programs according to the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Yet when you add the votes for the five Republican executive council candidates the total is 301,743, and the total for the five Democratic candidates is 303,238, a difference of 1,495 in favor of the Democrats.
If the five districts were drawn more fairly, the make up of the council should probably be 3-2 in one or the other party’s favor, not 4-1.
To see how badly gerrymandered the Executive Council is look at the 2nd district, which saw incumbent Democrat Cindi Warmington of Concord beat her Republican challenger, former state Sen. Harold French by 24,679 votes 74,107 to 49,428.
In essence, that result indicates 24,678 Democratic votes are wasted and could have gone elsewhere.
If you add up the margin of victory for the four Republican candidates, it is 23,179, or 1,500 less votes than Warmington won by.
If those 24,679 votes were spread in the other four districts, it would be a very different picture.
No wonder Warmington mentioned the gerrymandering in her statement Tuesday about her victory saying “Our outstanding candidates ran the best races possible, but unfortunately couldn’t overcome the effects of deeply gerrymandered districts.”
With the new political boundaries in the Senate, there are fewer competitive seats and what would appear to be a consistent 15-9 or 16-8 partisan breakdown favoring Republicans.
Districts were altered to make Republican held districts safer while concentrating more Democrats into fewer districts with few contested seats.
District 1 was changed in the North Country to make it more Republican and Democrats were packed in greater numbers in two Seacoast districts and a long held Manchester district removed a number of city wards and replaced them with Republican leaning towns bordering the city.
When the election was over, the partisan breakdown was the same as it has been the last two years, 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
However, the Republicans picked up the seat that was once a Manchester tradition, while the Democrats managed to flip the District 11 seat centered around Milford as they had done four years ago.
But the partisan numbers were the same and Democrats were in the minority but not the minority vote getters.
As with the Executive Council, when adding the votes for Republican Senate candidates and the votes for the Democratic Senate candidates, Democrats received more votes.
The Republican votes were 293,304, while Democrats received 299,327 votes, or a difference of 6,023 votes.
Yet Republicans hold a 14-10 advantage in the Senate and some of their leaders touted their hard work and agenda as the reason for the continued control.
But the real reason is the Senate is gerrymandered in a significant way to pack Democrats into a few districts while increasing the number of districts where Republican registrations outnumbers Democratic registrations.
A look at the difference in packed Democratic districts like 4, 5, 10, 15 and 21 shows the Democratic candidates won by significant margins of 5,000 votes or more, while the districts with that kind of spread for Republicans are district 3, 22 and 23 where the largest spread is 6,000 votes.
The redistricting done in 2012 gave Democrats about eight or nine sure seats, but had more competitive seats where given the national mood and the candidates, they could pick up enough seats to gain a majority as they did through the 2018 election.
The current plan is much more restrictive for Democrats and more favorable to Republicans.
In the House, the number of votes for Democratic candidates outnumber those for Republicans candidates as well.
The Democratic candidates received 1,089,577 votes or 50.8 percent and the Republicans 1,055,843 or 49.2 percent.
When determined by the 400 seats, Democratic candidates received 482,192 votes or 52.8 percent while the Republican candidates received 432,039 votes or 47.2 percent, again showing the House was gerrymandered.
The trouble with gerrymandering it does not reflect the will of the majority of voters and currently diminishes the value of Democratic votes versus Republican votes.
Gerrymandering disenfranchises partisan groups and prevents them from having a representative who reflects their interests.
And despite a superior court judge ruling there is nothing in law or the state constitution that makes partisan gerrymandering illegal, it truly is minority rule.
And with the state’s gerrymandered districts, it is difficult to see how the current plans adhere to the state constitution’s “free and fair elections” clause.
While it is clear the Republicans gave themselves a significant advantage in redrawing the state’s political boundaries, it should be noted Sununu vetoed two bills that had bipartisan agreement in 2019 and 2020 that would have created an independent redistricting commission to redraw the maps.
The legislature would have had to give final approval.
But the state’s “blue wave” in last week’s election would have been more apparent if an independent commission had drawn the political boundaries instead of special committees controlled by Republicans.
And the results will be apparent for the next two years if not the rest of the decade.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.