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Negotiators settle on congressional redistricting map that puts Pappas and Kuster in same district

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Sara Ernst/NHPR
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Negotiators in the New Hampshire House and Senate have reached agreement on the latest Republican-drawn congressional redistricting map for the state.

This map, which House and Senate negotiators adopted after about 25 minutes of public discussion Monday, largely mirrors a proposal the Republicans who have led the redistricting process, Rep. Barbara Griffin and Sen. Jim Gray, released Friday.

It places New Hampshire’s incumbent members of Congress, Democrats Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, in the state’s 2nd District, which Kuster has represented since 2013.

The plan does so by moving Pappas’ home city of Manchester from the 1st District to the 2nd District, which includes Hopkinton, where Kuster resides. The incumbents’ home towns were not part of the strategy behind these new maps, according to Griffin.

“I don’t actually know this, but where do our current representatives live?” Griffin asked at one point.

If the map stands, New Hampshire’s three largest cities —Manchester, Nashua and Concord — would be in the 2nd District, along with all of Cheshire, Sullivan, Grafton and Coos counties.

This map would also relocate a string of Republican-voting towns now in the 2nd District — Hudson, Salem, Windham, Pelham and Atkinson – to the 1st District, which would also include all of Rockingham and Strafford counties.

Latest New Hampshire congressional district map, as of May 18, 2022.
Latest New Hampshire congressional district map, as of May 18, 2022.

“If this is truly an exercise to balance the population, there is no need for these significant and radical changes,” said Sen. Donna Soucy of Manchester, the lone Democrat named to either negotiating team.

The only change made to the map since Friday was the shifting of three towns: Bristol was moved to the 2nd District; the Merrimack County towns of Hill and Andover, were meanwhile shifted to the 1st District.

“The redistricting process: it is ugly, it is political, no one leaves clean,” said Rep. Ross Berry of Manchester, a Republican.

Berry, the House’s lead number-cruncher throughout the redistricting process, called this plan, which has a deviation of 60 voters, “slightly less partisan-Republican” than any other backed by lawmakers.

But at this point, Gov. Chris Sununu’s assessment of the new map is most relevant.

Weeks ago, Sununu promised to veto the only map to clear the House and Senate on the grounds it would guarantee political outcomes. He then proposed a map of his own that lawmakers largely ignored.

Sununu later dismissed a secord House-passed map that aimed to build a district around I-93. “We are still not there,” he said at the time.

Some Republican lawmakers privately confess frustration at Sununu’s refrain about maps needing to “pass the smell test.”

Gray said that Republicans gave the governor a preview of this map, and that Sununu’s response was circumspect.

“The governor has not expressed an opinion to me, nor has anyone on his staff expressed an opinion to me about whether this map is going to get signed or not signed or get vetoed,” Gray said.

According to Sununu’s spokesman, the governor is “reviewing” it.

May 27 is the deadline for lawmakers and Sununu to agree to a map, before New Hampshire’s Supreme Court moves to impose one of its own.

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