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Support Builds to End Gerrymandering in New Hampshire

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New Hampshire's District 2 Executive Council seat, which crosses the state from the seacoast to Vermont, is often cited as an example of gerrymandering. (Granite State Progress)
New Hampshire's District 2 Executive Council seat, which crosses the state from the seacoast to Vermont, is often cited as an example of gerrymandering. (Granite State Progress)
May 2, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. – A bipartisan effort to end gerrymandering in New Hampshire received a boost Wednesday.

A bill to create an independent advisory commission to redraw lines for political offices had a public hearing in the state Senate, after passing the House of Representatives in February.

House Bill 706 would create a 15-member commission made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and five unaffiliated voters.

State Rep. David Danielson, a Republican from Bedford, is one of 11 co-sponsors. He says a public commission is a better approach to redrawing districts than the traditional closed-door process in the State Capitol.

"Ideally what it does, is it levels the field a bit, so that you don't keep having these overwhelming gerrymandered districts,” he explains. “What the bill does is try to bring more consistency to the process, and also make the process more representative, and that we represent those districts as best we can."

The commission would hold hearings across the state to seek public input on legislative boundaries. At least nine commission members would have to approve any redistricting proposal they send to the General Court.

Under New Hampshire's Constitution, the legislature has the power to approve districts.

Supporters of the idea maintain a public commission would make the drawing of new districts less partisan, and would group voters by common interests rather than party registration.

Many cite the District 2 Executive Council seat, representing an area that spans from the seacoast to the Vermont border, as an example of a district drawn for political reasons.

Danielson says an independent process could even result in fewer partisan battles.

"I would hope that's what it is going to do is, it'll take a little bit of that 'us and them' type of thing out of the process,” he states. “In reality, you know, it's politics, but the intensity won't be as great as it is right now."

House Bill 706 passed the House on a vote of 218 to 123, with bipartisan support. After Wednesday's hearing, the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee is expected to vote on it next week.

Kevin Bowe, Public News Service - NH