CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday that he will veto a GOP-backed redistricting plan that would tilt the state’s 1st Congressional District toward Republicans while solidifying the Democrats’ advantage in the 2nd District, shortly after legislators passed the bill.
“The proposed Congressional redistricting map is not in the best interest of New Hampshire and I will veto it as soon as it reaches my desk,” Sununu said in a statement. “The citizens of this state are counting on us to do better.”
The Senate’s 13-11 vote in favor of the plan on Thursday followed House passage of the bill in January on a vote of 186-164. Republicans lead by a narrow majority in the Legislature. Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both bodies.
“The proposed Congressional redistricting map was vetted appropriately through an open and transparent process where public input was taken and carefully considered,” said state Rep. Barbara Griffin, R-Goffstown, responding to Sununu. She chaired the House Special Committee on Redistricting.
State Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, chairperson of the Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee, said during the debate the plan “complies with the ‘one man one vote’ requirement and does not divide any city or town between districts.”
With the latest U.S. Census figures showing the 1st District with about 18,000 more residents than the 2nd, Democrats proposed making just one change: moving the town of Hampstead from the 1st District to the 2nd. Republican legislators in both chambers opposed that.
Sen. Rebecca Whitley, D-Hopkinton, said New Hampshire residents who spoke at public hearings on redistricting last year want their congressional districts to remain competitive.
“I share the outrage we have heard about this proposal, because this map does not reflect how a healthy democracy works,” she said.
Under the current map, the 1st District covers the eastern part of the state and some of the south, including Manchester. The 2nd District covers the western, northern and some southern communities, including Nashua.
Republicans approved creating a 1st District that climbs up from the southeast corner through the middle of the state, with the 2nd District reaching up and around it.
Republican strongholds in southern New Hampshire including Salem, Hudson, Windham and Atkinson would move into the 1st District, while Seacoast communities including Portsmouth, Rochester, Dover and Durham and surrounding towns would shift to the 2nd.
The current plan was approved in 2012. Republicans also controlled the Legislature at that time. But the map was vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who argued it was unconstitutional because it denied 62 towns and wards their own seats in the House and that it needlessly broke up municipalities. The Legislature overrode the veto, and the state Supreme Court later found the plan constitutional.
Though Democrats hold both of the state’s U.S. House seats, the 1st District seat flipped five times in seven election cycles before Democrat Chris Pappas won his first term in 2018.
“I couldn’t agree more with Governor Sununu that this Congressional map was not in the best interest of New Hampshire, and I join Granite Staters of all political stripes in applauding his intention to veto this plan,” Pappas said in a statement. “For well over 100 years, our districts have remained largely unchanged, and in recent decades both districts have been among the most competitive in the country.”
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