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Democratic Rep. David Cote: 'A significant number of people would like an independent redistricting option'

Protestors gathered in the Statehouse on Monday to share their thoughts on the redistricting process.
Peter Biello
Protestors gathered in the Statehouse on Monday to share their thoughts on the redistricting process.

Legislative committees are weeks away from the deadline to submit draft maps of voting districts in the state.

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The House Committee is looking at boundaries for the 400 districts in the New Hampshire House as well as the two federal Congressional districts.

All Things Considered host Peter Biello spoke with Democratic Rep. David Cote, ranking member of the House Redistricting Committee, about the redistricting process. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Peter Biello: Broadly speaking, what are you hoping to achieve through this redistricting process?

Rep. David Cote: I've always been a proponent of an independent redistricting process, so this process itself is not ideal from my point of view.

However, I hope that what we have is smaller, more compact districts, ones that reflect New Hampshire's population a little more closely, perhaps, and just generally give an opportunity for all New Hampshire voters to have their voice heard fairly.

Peter Biello: If the independent option that you are referring to would have involved non-politicians engaging in this process rather than people who will be on the ballot. To what extent do you see politics influencing this process right now?

Rep. David Cote: Well, I mean, I would think that you have a situation where human nature being what it is, one would want one's one side to have a particular advantage. However, I think that the maps that we're working on would minimize that. The maps that Democrats are working on. I can't speak to the maps that Republicans are working on because I've only seen one of them so far.

Peter Biello: Are Republicans and Democrats on your committee in the House not working as closely together as you would like?

Rep. David Cote: I think the process this year has been better than the process in the last cycle. We think generally there should be more public input than there's been so far.

Peter Biello: What have you heard from constituents about this redistricting process that you're keeping in mind?

Rep. David Cote: Mostly what I've heard in this process is a significant number of people would like an independent redistricting option and those that are addressing the process as it is are more concerned about fairness and lack of gerrymandering to favor one side or the other.

I think, basically, if I had to characterize what I've been hearing from the public, it's been, and not only from constituents, it's been that they want a fairer process that more closely reflects the independence of New Hampshire voters and is less inclined to favor one political party over another.

Peter Biello: You're not on the committee that is drafting the maps for the Executive Council, that's being done in the Senate Committee on Redistricting. But Executive Council's districts, too is one that's been repeatedly flagged as gerrymandered. It stretches somewhat awkwardly through the middle of the state, from the Seacoast to the Vermont border.

So you, as a House member, will have a chance to vote on the final maps. So, what are you hoping to see come out of the Senate Redistricting Committee with respect to Executive Council districts?

Rep. David Cote: I mean, I would say that I think the criteria should be the same no matter whose maps we're talking about. Smaller districts are more ideal and ones that reflect greater communities of interest. So, I mean, my criteria would not be different in terms of what I would hope for in a House map than the Senate map or the Congressional map or any other map. I think there were neutral criteria that you can apply to this process.

Peter Biello: Your committee is focused on the Congressional districts. What can you tell us about your thinking with respect to the two Congressional districts?

Rep. David Cote: My thinking is that they should be as close as possible and also that population changes between the two districts have been minimal. So I think that probably changes in the existing map should also be minimal.

Peter Biello: Representative Cote, thank you very much for speaking with me. I really appreciate it.

Rep. David Cote: Thank you, sir.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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