The Bulletin Board

Watchdog group criticizes Senate Republicans for proposed redistricting maps

By: - January 4, 2022 5:17 pm
Door with words reading "Executive Council Office"

A public hearing on the proposed maps – including for the Executive Council – is scheduled for Jan. 10. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Senate Republicans and Democrats released their plans for redrawing Senate and Executive Council maps last week. As expected, the parties disagree about how voting districts should look for the next decade. 

Executive Council maps
The Republican proposal for Executive Council would keep the districts as they were drawn in 2010, including District 2, shown in green. (Source: Mapathon)

An initial independent review of the maps by Open Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit, found the Republican proposals for Senate districts were “atrocious,” worse than they were in 2010, the last time voting districts were redrawn. Redistricting happens every 10 years, when new U.S. census data is released. The Republican proposal for Senate District 9 stretches from Hinsdale to Bedford in a long line, while Senate District 5 encompasses both Plymouth and Hanover. 

The Republican proposal for the Executive Council keeps the districts as currently drawn, including dragon-shaped District 2. The Democratic proposal would break up District 2, which has long been held up as an example of gerrymandering – it stretches from one side of the state to the other – “packing” Democratic-leaning municipalities into the same district. That, in turn, makes the surrounding districts more solidly Republican and less competitive.

“It’s widely known as a gerrymandered map,” said Brian Beihl, deputy director of Open Democracy, who said the decision to preserve it was puzzling, in light of Gov. Chris Sununu’s acknowledgement that District 2 is gerrymandered. “He acknowledges that it’s gerrymandered, but nobody seems to care about that anymore,” Beihl said.

Open Democracy expects to complete its analysis of both the Republican and Democratic maps by Thursday. A hearing will be held in Representatives Hall at the State House on Jan. 10 from 1 to 4 p.m. so members of the public can comment on the draft maps. Comments may also be submitted to [email protected].

Starting Wednesday, the House will vote on the maps proposed by the House Special Committee on Redistricting for congressional, House, and county commissioner districts. At least two representatives are putting forward alternative plans for these maps: 2016 Libertarian nominee for governor Rep. Max Abramson proposed a map with congressional districts that Open Democracy found to be competitive, but which would not pass technical muster, according to the organization.

And Rep. Norm Silber has an amendment that would tweak the map for county commissioner in Belknap County.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.