My Turn: Veto override would help ensure fair and honest elections

For the Monitor
Published: 9/15/2019 6:00:09 AM

When political leaders have the chance to fairly and independently redraw our electoral maps, they should take it. And when our governor refuses to do so after our Legislature passed a landmark redistricting bill with bipartisan support – and with 100% Republican support in the New Hampshire Senate – that’s where we should draw the line.

This bill calls for an independent commission to review our state’s voting districts and determine the fairest way to redraw them after the 2020 elections. If enacted, the commission’s work will ultimately empower New Hampshire voters in state and U.S. congressional elections. It will prevent incumbent lawmakers from drawing district maps that make their own re-elections easier for themselves but less fair for all concerned.

In his veto message, Gov. Chris Sununu argues that the main provision of the bill will create an “unaccountable commission selected by political party bosses.” The governor is mistaken. The process to establish the commission is similar to a jury selection, a bedrock process for ensuring fairness. The New Hampshire I know wants constant vigilance and the best assurance possible for fair and honest elections.

In this day and age bipartisanship is vital to the survival of our republic. This bill resolves the problem in New Hampshire, where the one party in power unilaterally draws the lines and gets to cherry-pick their voters. An independent redistricting commission will draw new nonpartisan electoral maps for New Hampshire, solving the gerrymandering problem.

The New Hampshire I know wants more vigilance to encourage fair and honest elections. As a former state legislator, I know first-hand how deeply our residents respect their right to vote. We know that our electoral process is facing unique and existential threats from foreign powers like Russia. Smart election reforms are neither “right” nor “left” on the political spectrum, but simply the right thing to do.

That’s what House Bill 706 is all about: It’s pro-New Hampshire. An independent redistricting commission will draw new, nonpartisan electoral maps. It can work without the influence of either political party while acting with the support of both. And it can spark much-needed conversation about other ways to ensure every Granite Stater’s voice is fully and fairly heard.

As proposed in HB 706, New Hampshire’s independent redistricting commission will join a growing number of independent redistricting processes around the country. To date, more than 20 states have instituted nonpartisan approaches to redrawing electoral maps – confirming that political polarization doesn’t have to stop us from getting things done. Eight of those states use independent commissions similar to the one that HB 706 recommends.

New Hampshire legislators, overriding the veto of this bill is a chance for New Hampshire to adopt one of the tried and tested ideas for fair and honest elections. From our first-in-the-nation state constitution to our first-in-the-nation presidential primary, our influence has always gone beyond our geographic borders.

Let’s set a good example for the rest of the country and take partisanship out of electoral maps in New Hampshire.

(Betty Tamposi served as an assistant secretary of state under George H.W. Bush. She also was chair of the House Ways and Means Committee as a state representative, served on the board of trustees of the University System of New Hampshire and was a Republican candidate for Congress.)


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