Commentary

Commentary: New Hampshire’s congressional districts must be competitive – not rigged monopolies

December 13, 2021 5:40 am
A person looks at a voter list

Competition generates more voter turnout, thus better representation of all the voters. (David Paul Morris | Getty Images)

“That’s all we’re asking for: an end to the antidemocratic and un-American practice of gerrymandering congressional districts. … The fact is, gerrymandering has become a national scandal.” – President Ronald Reagan

As someone who believes in the power of competition and the free market, I am appalled by the proposed map for New Hampshire’s congressional districts, which turns what were historically competitive districts into gerrymandered, noncompetitive monopolies. President Reagan was right; it’s a scandal, an affront to conservative values, is undemocratic, and is unquestionably un-American.

Why are competitive voting districts better than districts where one party is dominant? When elections are competitive, the candidates must articulate how they will represent all of their constituents. And they must be responsive and responsible to the voters – like the free market responding to consumers.

Competition promotes more choice for the voters; if there’s no way you can win, why should good candidates run? Like the free market, when there is competition, consumers have choices and the best product usually succeeds.

Competition promotes dialogue between people with different points of view and a better understanding of the issues. In a free market of ideas, policy ideas can and should be debated.  And to succeed, ideas can’t be just those of the fringe but must attract the center of the parties and New Hampshire’s largest group of voters, the undeclared independent voters. A rigged voting district monopoly supports the extremes of the parties and more polarization, neither of which is good for the Republic.

Competition in voting districts promotes dialogue about desired outcomes; there’s no incentive to listen or to change in a monopoly. A monopoly also moves glacially, instead of being responsive to the state’s urgent needs. Competition encourages candidates to engage with the public, listen to their needs, then propose needed policy changes.

Competition generates more voter turnout, thus better representation of all the voters. New Hampshire has been proud of its exceptional voter turnout of parties and unaffiliated voters. Gerrymandering of voting districts, where one party dominates, suppresses turnout of both parties. “Why vote? We always lose,” say the minority voters. “I don’t need to vote. We always win,” say the majority voters. “Why vote? There’s nothing worth voting for,” say the unaffiliated voters. We’re talking about congressional districts, but this lack of enthusiasm impacts the down-ballot races, too.

Our elections should allow candidates to compete on the issues and values for which they stand, and the best candidates should win on their merits. To not allow free and fair competition in our elections, and to create a scandalous gerrymander of our congressional districts, is against conservative, New Hampshire, and American values.

New Hampshire legislators, throw out this monopoly and create competitive districts. Let’s show voters that you stand for the conservative value of a competitive system – not rigging the system.

Gov. Christopher T. Sununu, you vetoed the independent redistricting commission and said we didn’t need it in 2019. Clearly, we did. Then you said in July of this year, “if it doesn’t pass the smell test” you would veto a gerrymandered map. Now we have a rigged map. Because you helped to make this mess, the voters expect you to keep your word, clean it up, and return us to the competitive districts that have served New Hampshire so well.

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William W. Farnum
William W. Farnum

William W. Farnum lives in Tamworth, where he formerly served as a selectman.

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