Bipartisan agreement on redistricting ran dry when it came to the House districts. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)
In a three-hour executive session, the House Special Redistricting Committee voted on all the maps it was tasked with redistricting, including county commissioner, the House of Representatives, and congressional districts.
The committee reached bipartisan agreement on five out of the nine county commission maps: Coos, Hillsborough, Sullivan, Belknap, and Grafton. Strafford County elects its county commissioners at large, and therefore isn’t a part of the redistricting process.
Majority lines prevailed for Carroll, Cheshire, Merrimack, and Rockingham counties.
Democrats were in favor of leaving Carroll, Cheshire, and Rockingham counties as they are currently drawn and changing Merrimack County only slightly, arguing that more significant changes were unnecessary. They pointed out that the population in some of these counties, like Carroll, has remained largely unchanged. The votes fell along party lines, 7-8, with Republicans opposing the maps proposed by the committee Democrats.
Bipartisan agreement ran dry when it came to the House districts. The committee had already unanimously agreed to stick to 400 representatives. The version the majority put forward Tuesday had been revised since maps were presented to the public last week. Rep. Carol McGuire, an Epsom Republican, said changes were made based on public comment and other maps that had been submitted to the committee for review.
Rep. Leonard Turcotte, a Barrington Republican, said the changes made to the House maps over the last week increased the number of single-town districts.
The new map gives each ward of Keene a dedicated representative, which Rep. Lucy Weber, a Walpole Democrat, called a step in the right direction. But it didn’t go as far as Weber had hoped, leaving Walpole, Chesterfield, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, and Swanzey “hitched” to other towns.
Democrats also sought amendments to give Berlin and Moltonborough their own districts. All of the proposed amendments to adjust the majority House districts were rejected in 8-7 votes that fell along party lines.
The Republicans also pushed through their version of the congressional district maps – which has been described as a claw, a beggar, or a man throwing a punch. Democrats said that it would become a symbol of gerrymandering, while Republicans maintained the map was fair.
That map moves 75 towns, or roughly a quarter of the state, from one district to another, representing one of the most dramatic changes to the congressional districts in the past century. This would make the 1st Congressional District – currently represented by Democrat Chris Pappas – favorable to Republicans, while the 2nd Congressional District – represented by Democrat Annie Kuster – would become even more friendly to Democrats.
Now that the maps have been voted out of committee, they will come up for a vote when the full House is back in session beginning in January.
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