New Hampshire Republicans who won control of the state legislature in the 2020 election are debating the most significant and consequential overhaul of Granite state congressional district maps in nearly 150 years.
The state House of Representatives began hearing testimony this week about a proposed overhaul of New Hampshire’s twin congressional districts that would give the Republican Party a much stronger chance to win a seat, after voters in recent elections have sent two Democrats to the United States House.
© General Court of New Hampshire
It’s a movement that Democrats and anti-gerrymandering organizations oppose, but have little power to stop, after Republicans gained full control of state government in the 2020 elections.
The boundaries between New Hampshire’s two congressional districts have changed little over the past century; in fact, for 80 years, until the US Supreme Court ruled in the 1960s that districts should have roughly equal populations, the district lines did not change at all.
But even after that ruling, the general outlines of the two seats have remained virtually identical: the first district, along the state’s eastern border with Maine, includes Manchester, the state’s largest city, stretching into north to Conway. The second district encompasses the western section of the state, anchored at Nashua and Concord and runs north along the Vermont border to the White Mountains and the Canadian border.
For the most part, both districts have given each game a good chance to win. In the last 30 elections, dating back to the early 1960s, Republicans won the first district 18 times and the second district 21 times. More recently, Democrats have won the first district in six of the last eight elections and the second district in seven of the last eight elections.
Repetitions Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasHouse passes a bill to prohibit age discrimination against job applicants Conservative group targeting moderate Democrats in spending votes on bills The Republican campaign arm of the House Representatives Releases Announcement Striking Democrats Over IRS Bank Reporting Proposal MORE (D) and Ann McLane Koster (D) won re-election in 2020, when President BidenJoe Biden Virginia’s defeat reveals Democrats’ struggle with rural voters After victory, Biden seeks political rebound Sunday shows progress: House passes bipartisan infrastructure bill; Democrats suffer electoral losses in Virginia MORE he won both districts with 52 percent and 53 percent of the vote, respectively.
Previous President TrumpDonald TrumpIsraeli officials say the United States should open a consulate for Palestinians in the West Bank Virginia’s loss reveals Democrats’ struggle with rural voters Sunday shows progress: House passes bipartisan infrastructure bill; Democrats suffer electoral losses in Virginia MORE led the marginally more conservative first district by a 48 percent to 47 percent margin over Hillary clintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton Loss of Virginia Exposes Democrats’ Struggle with Rural Voters Durham’s Latest Impeachment: More Lines Drawn on the Clinton Campaign Defense and National Security Overnight: Washington Gathers for Colin’s Funeral Powell MORE in 2016, although it lost the second district, and the state, by a margin of 49 percent to 46 percent that year.
This year, after New Hampshire Republicans regained control of the state legislature, the Republican Party has considered a more significant change in the current limits. Proposed maps released earlier this week would bring some conservative towns north of Concord to the first district, while Conway, Rochester and Portsmouth would move to the second district.
The result is a map that is far less competitive, one that would virtually guarantee Kuster a decade of easy reelection, and that would put Pappas in jeopardy by placing him in a district that supported Trump by a 50-48 percent margin.
“The committee is committed to adopting fair maps that represent the people of New Hampshire for the next ten years, and we are on the right track,” said State Representative Barbara Griffin (R), who chairs the Redistricting Committee for New Hampshire. The House of Representatives.
State Democrats proposed a map that would only make cosmetic changes, to align the two districts with equal population requirements.
Under Democratic proposals, the new districts would have performed almost identically in the 2020 election, giving Biden victories of 53 percent and 52 percent.
© General Court of New Hampshire.
“Republicans are making it very clear that they intend to draw maps that prioritize their power and ignore the will of Granite State voters,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley in a statement. “Instead of working behind closed doors to manipulate our maps for their own corrupt political ends, Republicans should focus on protecting and preserving our democracy.”
The State House will take public testimony on the new maps starting next week. They face a November 18 deadline to finalize their proposal before it reaches the state Senate.
Groups that say they are in favor of fair maps opposed the Republican proposal, which they say would limit competition in future elections.
“Make no mistake: this map is a cheeky gerrymander,” Devon Chaffee, executive director of the New Hampshire branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “The people of New Hampshire should elect their elected officials, not the other way around. All the voices of Granite State must be heard and valued equally when casting their vote. This map aims to avoid that. “
New Hampshire is closely divided among partisans. Although he has voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since 2004, there are almost as many registered Republicans, 267,526, as there are registered Democrats, 277,720; voters who do not align with one party, 324,802, outnumber both.
Governor Chris sununuChris SununuBiden and the progressives lead the Democrats into the wild. (R) has held the highest position in the state since 2016; Four of the five members of the State Executive Council, a lingering relic of the colonial-era government in New Hampshire, are Republicans. Republicans hold 14 of the 24 seats in the state Senate and 205 of the 400 seats in the state House, the only two legislative houses in the United States to move from Democratic to Republican control in the 2020 election.
But in a tense political environment, and during the inherently political redistricting process, everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a fair map.
“A fair district is one that meets the constitutional requirements that we have established, and I believe that beyond that, it will be impossible to define unanimously what a fair district would be,” Griffin said.
Redistricting processes in other states have been opportunities over the decades to discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities, packing or dividing those populations to deny them representation. In New Hampshire, discriminatory intent was directed at Catholic voters: cartographers of the 1880s intentionally divided Manchester and Nashua to deny Catholics the ability to elect one of their own to Congress.
Anti-Catholic bias is less worrisome today: The last Republican to take Pappas’s job, former Rep. Frank Guinta (R), is Catholic, but Manchester and Nashua remain divided. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic proposals bring the two cities together, which combine to make up about one-seventh of the state’s population.
“Having been a transplant to this state more than 30 years ago, in their late 40s, Manchester and Nashua don’t particularly see themselves as the same community,” Griffin said. “When you have a state with a population that we have of 1.3 million and you’re only talking about two districts, when you start putting the city with the largest population in a district, balance becomes a factor.”