Last spring, state senators and representatives worked together in a manner that could serve as a model of bipartisan statesmanship. When their bill to end the practice of gerrymandering in New Hampshire passed, I felt hopeful that we could move beyond both the partisan politics and the system-rigging that undermine our democratic republic.
Unfortunately, the governor vetoed House Bill 706, for reasons suggesting a misunderstanding of the issue. First, he expressed concern that the bill removes the Legislature’s authority to establish electoral maps and gives it to an unelected commission. But actually the bill leaves the ultimate decision-making with the Legislature; the nonpartisan commission would serve in an advisory role.
The governor went on to say that gerrymandering is “very rare” in New Hampshire. Would that it were so! The Executive Council’s District 2, stretching from Keene to Durham, crams as many Democrats as possible into one district, in a deliberate effort to limit the number of Democratic councilors. State Senate district lines also significantly disadvantage Democratic voters. According to NHPR, Republicans generally hold 10% to 15% more Senate seats than they would win if maps were neutral. That means that some citizens’ votes carry less weight than others, and that’s just plain wrong.