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New Hampshire House passes GOP-backed redistricting plans

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If approved, the map would transform the 1st Congressional District, now represented by Democrat Chris Pappas, into a district with a Republican tilt.

The New Hampshire House voted along party lines Wednesday to adopt new political maps – for the legislature, and for the state’s two congressional districts.

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The GOP-crafted congressional maps make big changes, transforming the 1st Congressional District, now represented by Democrat Chris Pappas, into a district with a Republican tilt.

The 2nd District, which has been represented by Democrat Annie Kuster for a decade, would become more Democratic.

House Speaker Sherman Packard, Republican of Londonderry, praised the work of the GOP-led committee that wrote the maps.

“The Special Committee on Redistricting completed their work on time, and the people of New Hampshire have these fair and constitutional redistricting plans for the next 10 years,” Packard said.

Under the new maps, about 25 percent of the state’s population (more than 300,000 residents) will flip from one district to the other.

The Democratic cities of Portsmouth, Rochester, Dover and Somersworth will move from the 1st District to 2nd; Republican towns including Salem, Hudson, Litchfield and Pelham, will meanwhile move from the 2nd district to the 1st.

Democrats, meanwhile, proposed moving a single town, Hampstead, which votes Republican, from the 1st District to the 2nd District.

Republicans derided that suggestion as a political calculation designed to further benefit Democrats, who have won nine of the 10 congressional races held using the current maps.

Those were drawn by a Republican-led legislature in 2011.

Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to the scale of the change backed by Republicans as evidence the new maps amount to an effort to rig the districts for political gain.

“We will no longer be able to brag about doing it “the New Hampshire way” if these districts pass into law,” said Rep. Marjorie Smith, Democrat from Durham.

“Governor Sununu has stated that he will veto any maps that do not pass ‘the smell test.’ The governor ought to get his veto pen ready because these maps smell like a landfill,” Smith said

In defending the plans, Rep Bob Lynn, R-Windham, the former chief justice of New Hampshire’s Supreme Court, defended the maps as constitutional and told colleagues that politics are part of every redistricting process.

“Particularly considering what we are dividing up are districts for voting purposes, political affinity would seem to be among the most important considerations,” Lynn said.