Bill to Create Commission to Redraw Legislative Maps Clears N.H. Senate

May 23, 2019

New Hampshire State House.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire is a step closer to having its legislative districts drawn by an independent commission, rather than by lawmakers.

On Thursday, the state Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would create a 15-member public body to draw legislative maps.

Supporters of the bill say the move would reduce the opportunity for partisan gerrymandering, and allow voters to pick their lawmakers, rather than have lawmakers pick their voters.

“Elections should be won and lost on ideas and values, not gerrymandered districts, and I thank the Senate for its unanimous, bipartisan vote today in support of fair elections,” said Rep. Marjorie Smith, an architect of the proposal, in a statement.

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Currently, lawmakers redraw legislative districts following the completion of the census every 10 years. That gives the majority party at that time the power to approve maps that favor them.

HB 706 would instead rely on members of the public to draw new districts. This would apply to New Hampshire’s two congressional seats, as well as the 400-member House and 24 Senate districts, along with county and executive council positions.

Different versions of the plan have now cleared both chambers, meaning lawmakers will need to hammer out a final version before sending the bill to Gov. Chris Sununu.