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Lack of Redistricting Transparency Concerns NH Groups

August 11, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - The Census results are in - let the redistricting in New Hampshire begin. The Granite State has seen a population increase of 6.5 percent in the last 10 years, which could mean changes in voting districts. Public hearings were held in Manchester and Concord last week, and one is scheduled for Keene tonight.

Josiette White is the state director for America Votes. Historically, she says, the state's redistricting committee went out to every county to get public input, but that is not happening this time.

"They met very few times this year. They did not reconvene for a public session after the Census numbers were released. We've been regularly checking and watching to see when they will be sharing their plans with the public."

White says meetings in Concord and Manchester only discussed redistricting of city ward lines and did not include state redistricting. Under current law, New Hampshire's legislature is responsible for drawing boundaries for the state's two congressional districts, as well as the legislative boundaries for both the state House and Senate, and the governor has the power to veto.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, says three scheduled meetings are not nearly enough for residents of the entire state to discuss the redistricting process. Her group is concerned about the lack of transparency and community involvement, she adds.

"What people need to understand about redistricting is it's not just about what plans pass this year. The plan that is passed this year determines how representatives are elected in our state for years to come."

Rice Hawkins says it is unclear at this point if there will be future public hearings regarding redistricting, but she says people in less-populated areas in the state also should be allowed a way to have input.

The Keene hearing is about boundaries for the city's five ward lines. It takes place tonight in the Keene City Hall Council Chambers at 6:45 p.m.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH