The New Hampshire Constitution guarantees that every town and city with sufficient population shall receive at least one full seat in the state House of Representatives. The House Redistricting Plan, enacted by the legislature over the Governor’s veto, denies a dedicated representative district to 375,284 people in 62 New Hampshire communities that have sufficient population.
Today, lawyers representing a group of residents from those towns filed a brief with the New Hampshire Supreme Court arguing that the plan is unconstitutional and should be overturned. “Put into numeric terms,” the lawyers argue, “the unconstitutionality is stark and the magnitude of the potential fixes is dramatic.”
Accompanying maps illustrate the discrepancies. The first map on the left highlights in white, all of the towns and cities that have at least 3,291 residents and are entitled to their own representative. The map on the right indicates in red, those communities that actually receive their own representative under the House Redistricting Plan. The 62 communities highlighted in white, representing 375,284 residents, are denied their own representative under the plan.
The lawyers contend that “substantially greater compliance” with both the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions can be achieved with little or no “disruption to the constitutional balance.” They provide three such alternatives.
The map below on the left creates 24 additional compliant districts (highlighted in red) and gives 172,971 more people their own district by expanding the allowable population deviation from 10% to 14%, a miniscule shift of just 66 people in either direction.
The map below on the right provides even greater constitutional compliance using the somewhat controversial weighted voting approach in floterial districts. Weighted voting would add an additional 51 compliant districts and would give 307,074 more residents their own representative than the House Redistricting Plan does.
A third alternative, 400 single member districts, would provide the smallest possible districts but would necessarily cut across ward and town boundaries, conflicting with the state constitutional requirement to preserve those boundaries.
Attorney Jay Surdukowski explains, in layman’s terms, why the plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the plan unconstitutional.
[W]e like to know who our state reps are — local representation matters. There’s a reason we have 400 representatives — you can’t go to the grocery store without running into one, and the people of New Hampshire like it that way…. We hope the court will vindicate this long and lively New Hampshire tradition which the voters breathed new life into just a few short years ago.
The fight to “vindicate this long and lively New Hampshire tradition” is a community effort. Please consider a donation to the Granite State Progress Redistricting Legal Fund.