Thank you for visiting to learn more about New Hampshire's redistricting process, and the NH Resolution for Fair Nonpartisan Redistricting.
The Basics of Redistricting & Gerrymandering
In short, redistricting is an every-ten-year process that takes the U.S. Census data, and reapportions the population into more-or-less equal voting districts for state elected positions like the Executive Council, State Senate, and State House. It also includes the two U.S. House of Representatives seats for NH, as well as for county commissioner.
By current state law, the NH House is responsible for most of the redistricting, with the NH Senate doing the Congressional districts. The process is supposed to be fair, nonpartisan, and transparent to the public. Fair voting districts are geographic areas of close to equal population. Voters in those districts should have something in common, such as a school district, perhaps a lake, or a common economy. Our legislature appoints a "special committee" which reflects the percentage of legislators that each party got elected. That committee draws the voting maps, has public hearings and submits them to the full legislature for a vote.
Voting maps should NOT be drawn on the basis or race, religion, ethnicity or political party, or between areas which have nothing in common, or perhaps competing interests. When maps are drawn using this data are often are manipulated to cheat, and control the outcome of elections for the party in charge at the time. The graphic at right shows how this is done, called "gerrymandering."
What Happened in 2011
In 2011, a legislature hostile to fair, nonpartisan redistricting drafted new voting districts which gerrymandered dozens of NH towns, as detailed in the articles below. The Special Committee had no real part in the process; the maps were in fact drawn by a small group of legislators out of the site of the public, using an still unknown software package. When public hearings were held around the state, there were no maps shown to the public or most state legislators. When state rep district maps were finally available, the NH House had only one week to review them, and the public only had 24 hours! There was little transparency in the process.
- Concord Monitor, Dec. 15, 2011: Politics-Election Redistricting plan unveiled
- New Hampshire Public Radio, June 7, 2017: How Gerrymandering Skewed the 2016 Elections
- NH Union Leader- Coming soon
- NH Supreme Court: Brief by NH Senator David Pierce
- League of Women Voters in the NH Union Leader: NH Voices: Liz Tentarelli -- Learning from the past
Gerrymandering Could Get Worse in 2021
In 2021, there's a very good chance that this gerrymandering could get worse, not better, unless voters speak up and make sure that legislators know that the voters demand a FAIR, NONPARTISAN and TRANSPARENT process. Without the proposed permanent solution of an "independent redistricting commission," which passed the legislature with bipartisan votes but was vetoed twice, we again are depending on the good consciences of our state legislators.
Passing the NH Resolution for Fair Nonpartisan Redistricting
While we would prefer to push for a permanent independent redistricting commission, that is unlikely to happen in time for the 2021 redistricting. So instead we are passing the NH Resolution for Fair, Nonpartisan Redistricting in as many towns as possible.
Between Dec 2020 and early February 2021, volunteers working with Open Democracy and other organizations around the state will be proposing "petitioned warrant articles" in 100 town-meeting & SB 2 towns around the state. In cities, volunteers will be working with city councils and boards of aldermen. In both types of government, we will be asking for a non-binding resolution to be sent to our state elected officials. We're asking a town's voters to:
- Demand fairness and transparency in the process of drawing new maps
- Require that maps be drawn with no favoritism to one party or the other
- Make sure that the mapping process happens in public meetings
- That towns of 3300 citizens or larger be given their own state representative districts, rather than being split with other towns.
- And that the board of selectmen from that town communicate in writing the wishes of the town to the State and Federal delegations.
We have more details on our Town Meeting "How-To" page, or if you live in a city or a town with a town council, our Council Resolution page, but this initiative is designed to use our local town warrants to inform local voters on the evils of gerrymandering, and pressure our legislature to put party politics aside and create nonpartisan voting districts for state representative, NH senator, executive council, and U.S. Congress. The voters want fairness, but politicians want power. As a voter, it should be YOU calling the shots!
If you have further questions about the NH Resolution for Fair Nonpartisan Redistricting in your town, or want to pass a resolution in your town, contact Open Democracy's deputy director, Brian Beihl, for more information.