Editorial: A move to ensure fair elections

Published: 12/5/2018 10:00:45 PM

It’s time for New Hampshire to join the 20 or so states that have abandoned politically partisan post-census redistricting in favor of electoral maps created by an independent, non-partisan commission. A bill that would create such a commission failed to pass in the last legislative session thanks to Republican opposition. Lawmakers will consider an essentially identical bill this session. They should pass it and Gov. Chris Sununu should sign it.

After each decennial census, the state Constitution commands the Legislature to create electoral districts that approach the ideal of one person, one vote. Partisan redistricting, because it dilutes the votes of some citizens and gives greater weight to the vote of others, is undemocratic and unjust. It can lead to tortured electoral maps that completely ignore the principle that communities of interest should be gathered together for purposes of representation.

Executive Council District 2, which includes Concord and Hopkinton, spans the width of the state, from Hinsdale and Winchester on the Connecticut River to Dover and Rochester on the Maine border. Created by a then-Republican majority, the map was drawn to cluster together cities and towns with a history of voting for Democrats. Turning the task of redistricting over to an independent commission would put a stop to such nonsense, which historically, both major parties have indulged in.

The redistricting maps crafted by lawmakers after the 2000 and 2010 censuses, earned gubernatorial vetoes. In 2002, because then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and lawmakers failed to agree on a new district map, the state Supreme Court, with help from a consultant, imposed one. In 2012 lawmakers overrode the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch to create the map that includes Executive Council District 2.

Battles over maps drawn to confer electoral advantage diminish faith in elections and discourage voting since, in egregious cases, one’s vote really may not count, at least for much. The 2012 map in use today, for example, is a case in point. Because the map is gerrymandered, drawn in a way to benefit one party, Democratic senatorial candidates won 49 percent of the votes but earned just 10 of the Senate’s 24 seats.

Now is the time to establish an independent redistricting commission, one that could create a map that would then be subject to approval by the governor and Legislature. Democrats will soon control both the House and the Senate. If they remain in power in 2020 it is they who will face the temptation to redraw maps to the benefit of their party. They should instead join with Republicans, who are aware that the tables could soon turn, and vote in favor of enfranchisement, election fairness and an end to gerrymandering.

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