New Hampshire's Redistricting News
Herald: "Redistricting Set for Primary Test."
August 29, 2004
The process of rearranging those districts is called "redistricting." The goal of the process is to equalize, as much a possible, the number voters in any given district and to assign House seats accordingly.
In 2002, Portsmouth was allocated two fewer representatives than in previous years, based largely on the decrease in population recorded in the Census from 1990 to 2000. That decrease was due, in large part, to the closure of Pease Air Force Base in the early 1990s.
In response to its legal requirement - coupled with political in-fighting - New Hampshire has been redistricted twice since the results of the 2000 Census were released in 2001; once via a plan developed by the state Supreme Court.
The reason the court had to become involved was because then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, vetoed three redistricting plans developed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Shaheen contended that none of the plans passed by the House and Senate fulfilled constitutional criteria.
At the same time Democrats in the Legislature, who did not have the votes to kill the Republican-backed plans, claimed gerrymandering by the Republicans. Gerrymandering is redistricting to make it less likely for the minority party to hold or gain legislative seats.
Eventually, the Supreme Court handed down a plan that cut the number of House districts from 193 to just 88. That meant some state representatives were responsible to as many as 14,000 voters, a situation even Republicans claimed made a mockery of proportional representation.
The 2002 elections were held using this court-constructed plan. This created situations in which incumbent representatives from small communities became virtually unknowns in the new, larger districts.
"I think the Republican leadership is savvy enough to recognize the new House districts created candidate pools that were unknown to voters. Thus, many simply pulled the straight-ticket lever and whoever was on the ballot from that party was the winner by default," said Republican Rep. Edward Leach from Hancock, in a letter to the editor submitted in December 2002. "But in the midst of the confusion, the careful observer could already begin to see instances where smaller towns were being shoved aside in districts that had a dominant town."
This year, the still Republican-controlled Legislature attempted to rectify that situation, at least to some degree, and again redistricted the House. Still claiming they were being given the short end of the redistricting stick, Democrats took the new plan to court claiming gerrymandering and that the Republicans did not have the authority to redistrict outside the normal 10-year cycle.
The Supreme Court ruled against the Democrats and the new plan is in place for the Sept. 14 primary and the Nov. 2 general elections this year. However, all this shifting of towns within districts has led to confusion about just where individual Seacoast towns fall in the maze of legislative Senate and House districts.
In an effort to resolve that confusion, the Herald has compiled a list of towns, the districts they are in and the candidates running in those districts. In the coming weeks, more information about these candidates will appear on these pages.
LEGISLATORS HAVE a historic opportunity to return House representation to the small communities that lost it when the Supreme Court redrew House districts last year. To do that, lawmakers have to act now, and they have to act with the interests of the public ó not parties ó at heart.
Rep. Ted Leach, Republican of Hancock, has introduced a bill that deserves quick and full consideration. It is one of the redistricting bills left over from last session. It had bipartisan support, and it was neither vetoed by the governor nor struck down by the Supreme Court. Even if it isnít a perfect solution, it is a good starting point. And it is loads better than the current setup, which divides the state into only 88 districts. Leachís bill would create 218 districts, even more than the 193 that were in place before the Supreme Courtís intervention last year.
At this point House leadership shows little interest in moving Leachís bill forward. Why? Because House Speaker Gene Chandler says it doesnít favor Republicans enough.
ìOn the Republican side, thatís not where we should start from,î Chandler said.
Say what? Since when is it the duty of the House of Representatives to give one party an advantage over another?
This is exactly the attitude that got us into this redistricting mess in the first place. If House Republicans had not insisted last year on making redistricting plans so disadvantageous to Democrats, they may have been able to put out a plan on which everyone could agree. Redistricting should be about ensuring local representation by creating the smallest, most common-sense districts possible. It should not be about which party can gain the most seats.
Besides, it is not as if the Republicans need to resort to gerrymandering to maintain their numerical advantage in the Legislature. Democrats in New Hampshire could hardly be more unpopular and irrelevant than they already are. Why not just create the best districts possible and let the chips fall where they may? Are House Republicans really so insecure about their ability to hold onto their colossal political advantage that they think they have to abuse their power to keep an already discredited and unpopular opposition party at bay?
If the state Supreme Court produces a House redistricting plan soon, there could still be a Sept. 10 primary in that race, state election officials said yesterday.
Voters would have to cast their votes on paper ballots that would be tabulated by a hand count.
Too much of a delay in a court plan, though, and the House would have to hold a separate primary, costing towns and cities extra money in election costs.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said he has talked with printers to make sure they are ready to quickly produce ballots, once a plan is in place and candidates have filed.
ìWe have to make sure that in the process of working to meet the Sept. 10 deadline, we donít step on the rights of voters to participate in the election. At the same time, we want to make sure we donít make any mistakes in rushing just to meet a date,î he said.
Even though the state constitution makes no mention of primary elections, state law describes the process in detail. Among other things, election laws call for absentee ballots to be delivered to town clerks 30 days ahead of the primary election, which is Aug. 9 this year.
That gives the state three weeks to get a House redistricting plan in hand, hold a filing period, print ballots and distribute them.
The state has to produce between 1,300 and 1,400 different ballots, including absentee ballots, to cover Democratic and Republican races for the House.
The court canceled two days of oral arguments this week to give itself more time to focus on the House redistricting plan. It issued its final order in the Senate redistricting case last week. The court got the job of drawing election districts to match the 2000 census after the House and Senate failed to override vetoes of plans they passed, and Democrats sued for a plan.
The court has to find a way to divide the state among 375 to 400 House members, each representing an ideal figure of 3,089 residents.
Secretary of State William Gardner said the stateís constitution does not require a primary, but state laws describe in detail how one should be run. By law, the primary is supposed to be held on the second Tuesday in September every even numbered year.
Republican and Democratic leaders said yesterday theyíd rather see a late primary than none at all.
ìIíd be for having it anyway,î GOP state chairman John Dowd said. ìIf we have to use paper ballots, itís a pain but it can be done. Until recently thatís the way it was done.î
House Democratic Leader Peter Burling said leaving off the primary wouldnít work.
ìTalk about confusion. Can you imagine a list of all the candidates for both parties on the same ballot and telling people to choose one or two?î he asked.
House lawmakers lost a last-ditch chance Monday to re-draw their election districts themselves, clearing the way for the state Supreme Court to take over.
Republican leaders in the House wanted to hold a special session to consider yet another plan to shift voting districts so they better reflect the stateís population, but not enough lawmakers were willing to return. With 208 ëyesí votes, the House surpassed the 197 it needed, but the Senate fell 2 votes short of the 13 required to call a special session.
Sen. Ned Gordon, R-Bristol, didnít cast a ballot, meaning he was counted as a "no." He said he would gladly have supported holding a special session if House lawmakers had a new plan to present, but returning to vote on plans that already had been vetoed by the governor was a waste of time and taxpayer money.
"I had hoped someone would give me a reason to vote for a special session, that is, a different approach than has been taken in the past," he said. "If we had a special session, Iím convinced that this would have ended up in the same place it is now with the courts."
The Legislature is required to redraw districts every decade to reflect the latest Census figures. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved plans for the House and Senate, but Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, vetoed them both.
Asked by Democrats to intervene, the Supreme Court imposed its own plan on the state Senate last month and plans to do the same for the 400 House districts soon.
The court had planned to issue a map in mid-July, but justices said last week they need more time because lawmakers failed to provide them with census data in a timely fashion.
Had the Legislature held a special session, lawmakers could have adopted new rules to allow a redistricting plan to be approved by a simple majority rather than the two-thirds vote required under current rules.
House Minority Leader Peter Burling said he would have gone to court to block the session had it been scheduled. Though that wasnít necessary, he still criticized the way Secretary of State William Gardner handled the vote on whether to hold the session.
He blasted Gardnerís office for accepting ballots by fax, not verifying all signatures on ballots and announcing running tallies of the votes before Mondayís deadline.
"If any other election in this state were handled the way you have handled this one, with ballots opened so as to permit pressure on voters from interested parties, serious questions would be raised about the validity of the balloting," Burling wrote in a letter to Gardner. "You have chosen a methodology calculated to aid the majority party."
But Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said state law requires a special session to be called as soon as a majority is reached, meaning his office had to open and count ballots before the deadline. He said officials didnít verify all signatures, but did compare signatures on faxes to paperwork lawmakers previously signed.
"We didnít start opening them until we had over 200 received," he said. "All of the ballots were opened in public."
The secretary of stateís office has said it already is too late to hold House primaries with other contests on Sept. 10, but it still is possible the Senate primaries will be held that day.
The fight over state Senate districts ended last week when the court amended its June 24 map to fix problems with ward boundaries in Nashua and Manchester. A spokeswoman for Senate President Arthur Klemm, R-Windham, has said he will not appeal the case again to federal or state court.
The state Senate will meet today to vote on a bill to patch up problems in the redistricting map the state Supreme Court released Monday.
Meanwhile, the court is giving House members an opportunity to help justices avoid repeating the problem if the court has to draw a House redistricting plan.
House members also will meet today to try to come up with a compromise plan. If they fail, the court will do it for them next month.
In drawing its Senate plan, the court ignored voting wards Manchester and Nashua adopted last year to reflect population shifts.
State election officials said they see no legal or practical way to conduct elections with the two systems.
A bill developed by Republican senators yesterday would use most of the court's map but substitute the ward boundaries the cities adopted, Senate President Arthur Klemm said.
To make the Senate's 24 districts nearly equal, the bill calls for moving some Nashua wards into different districts and moving New Ipswich and Mont Vernon into new districts.
The bill also would shorten the filing period for Senate candidates, ending filing Tuesday to allow time to print ballots for the Sept. 10 primaries.
The court had ordered the filing period, which opened yesterday, to end July 5.
"We know there's a problem and we're responding to rectify it as soon as possible," Klemm said.
In the court order that included the new Senate map, justices wrote that they ignored the new ward boundaries because parties to the case never gave the court sufficient information about the new wards.
In an order released late yesterday, the court said it would consider the new wards in drawing the House map - if the House gets the required information to the court by Monday.
"The court is saying if the parties believe there is relevant information, then bring it forward," said Laura Kiernan, the court's spokeswoman. "The court doesn't go out and look for information," she said.
The state Supreme Court, in a decision that could shape public policy for a decade, drew the lines for the 24 Senate districts yesterday, after Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a redistricting plan.
Meanwhile, House Republicans and Democrats are continuing to negotiate their plan, and if they are unable to reach a compromise the state Supreme Court will step in and issue its own map of the 400 House seats sometime next month.
The Supreme Court started from scratch in drawing its senatorial map, tossing out three Republican plans and one Democratic plan submitted to the court this month.
The justices, in the 4-0 decision, faulted all the plans for not relying solely on federal Census data, as required by the state constitution.
The justices also expressed apprehension about endorsing any of the plans, believing each might be laden with political consequences that were designed to favor one party.
Instead, the court relied on the federal constitutional principle of ''one person, one vote''; a state constitutional standard of geographic contiguity; and the Senate district map approved in 1992.
In the end, 19 percent of the state's 1.2 million residents will be in new Senate districts.
''We consider the 1992 Senate plan to be the best evidence of state redistricting policy,'' according to the court opinion, written by Chief Justice David Brock. ''By using the existing Senate districts, we are able to ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that each senatorial district contains roughly the same constituents as the last validly enacted plan.''
Each district is to represent about 51,500 residents.
Leaders from both parties said the court's plan favored their respective parties, and were looking forward to putting the redistricting stalemate behind them.
''We thought the court did a fair job, and the plan was what we were expecting to come out of the court,'' said Senator Gary Francoeur of Hudson, the Republican majority leader. ''We think the plan leans Republican, and all along we knew New Hampshire was Republican, and you can't gerrymander it to have a 12-12 margin.''
But Senator Clifton Below, a Lebanon Democrat who led his party's redistricting effort, said he failed to see how the plan favors Republicans. Ultimately, he said, it's up to voters to decide.
''From our point of view, it's better than what the Republicans offered and better than what we were willing to compromise on,'' said Below, who sees 12 to 14 opportunities for Democrats to win seats.
The biggest changes to district lines were made in the southern tier of the state, where the bulk of the population boom over the last decade occurred. New Hampshire was the fastest-growing state in New England in the 1990s; the population expanded by 11.4 percent to 1.2 million.
Senate Republicans and Democrats spent over a year haggling over various redistricting plans. Finally in March, the Senate, where Republicans hold a 13 to 11 majority, passed a plan along party lines. Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it, and Republicans failed at an override.
Frustrated at the impasse, Below and Representative Peter Burling, the Democratic leader in the House, asked the state Supreme Court in April to intervene. Meanwhile, the two sides continued to negotiate a plan up until Sunday.
New Hampshire is among about 35 states where redistricting issues have landed in either state or federal courts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group based in Denver that represents all 50 legislatures.
The stalemate in New Hampshire put the filing period for Senate races on hold. The period was supposed to close on June 14. Instead, the period will open tomorrow and close on July 5, Democratic leaders said.
Some Republican state Senators are convinced a compromise redistricting plan reached with Democrat colleagues would be preferable to anything the state Supreme Court could come up with.
But they better act fast - the court is expected to release its plan Monday morning.
The state is required to redraw districts every 10 years to reflect population shifts shown in the federal census.
On March 29, Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed a plan passed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
After failing to reach a compromise with Republicans after the veto, Democrats took the issue to the high court. If a compromise is not reached, it will mark the first time in state history the court has drawn Senate districts.
Senate President Arthur Klemm, R-Windham, said his top concern is keeping together communities with strong ties to each other.
"I have urged the negotiators to continue talking," he said in a statement Sunday. "I won't accept a plan that splits cities who have asked not to be split."
The normal deadlines for candidates to file to run has come and gone. Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said the filing period, which is normally two weeks, needed to end by last week to give his office enough time to distribute ballots for the Sept. 10 primary.
On Friday, Gardner declined to speculate about what he'll do with a new plan until he sees it. He said the court might give him instructions about filing periods and election dates.
Klemm said the state should hold a one-week filing period, starting at noon Monday and ending Friday at 5 p.m.
"It's time to move this election process forward," he said.
If Senators don't reach a compromise, they'll be looking carefully at the court's plan to see how the justices reconciled contradictions between the state and U.S. constitutions.
Federal law, for example, requires districts to be within 1 percent of the mathematical ideal of 51,491 people per district. But that may be impossible if the court follows the state constitution, which bars splitting towns or city wards.
The court indicated several times in orders and after oral arguments June 12 that it would place top priority on the U.S. Constitution's guidelines.
Senators also will be looking at the boundaries of their districts - to see if they still live in the district they represent and if their political power base is still part of their district.
Senators' own redistricting plans were at least conscious of incumbents - sometimes at the risk of being accused of gerrymandering. There is little indication the Supreme Court will be sensitive to those political concerns.
The new district boundaries will stand for 10 years and could significantly affect the balance of power in the Senate.
In 1998, Democrats stunned Republicans by taking a 13-11 edge, their first Senate majority since the election of 1912. The death of Democratic Senate President Clesson Blaisdell in 2000, and the election of Republican Tom Eaton to replace him, made it 12-12. Republicans regained a 13-11 majority in the 2000 election.
With the governor's seat up for grabs this fall and a large Republican majority in the House, the Senate could decide key issues including education funding. The new district plan will be in effect until 2012.
A Supreme Court plan could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, said John Kacavas, a lawyer and a state Representative who represented the Democrats in the case.
Kacavas said if the plan is appealed, the appeal probably wouldn't delay the filing period or the primary and election. He said the federal court would be unlikely to consider the case before the election and equally unlikely to order the election delayed in the meantime.
The state Supreme Court began the difficult job Thursday of developing 424 legislative districts using a constitutional principle that may drastically alter the stateís voting map and shift power in the GOP-controlled House and Senate.
Republicans and Democrats presented competing redistricting plans to the court Wednesday and Thursday that they hope help them win seats in the fall elections. The court holds oral arguments Tuesday.
Secretary of State William Gardner has told the court June 19 is his deadline if he is to prepare the primary ballot by Sept. 10.
The parties could still settle the dispute and avoid court-ordered plans for each chamber, but the odds of that happening are less each day.
The key issue is how much weight the court gives to the state and federal constitutional principle of one person, one vote.
Democrats want the court to use it as a guiding principle to dramatically alter the political landscape; Republicans argue the court canít ignore equally important state constitutional prohibitions against dividing wards or town boundaries which help preserve the status quo.
Republicans also want the court to implement plans passed by Republican legislative majorities that were opposed by Democrats and vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. They argue the governor should not block the will of the majority.
The court reiterated Wednesday its primary consideration in adopting reapportionment plans will be to satisfy the one person, one vote principle, but it allowed the parties to offer plans that preserve town and ward lines.
In orders last month, the court said a court-ordered plan would strive for population equality among the districts with little more than plus or minus 1 percent variation. The ideal Senate district would have 51,491 people, and each House district, 3,089.
The court said it might not be possible to consider other traditional factors or to give full effect to the constitutionís prohibition against dividing towns and wards. Senate Republicans reacted to that possibility by asking the U.S. District Court to assume jurisdiction of the dispute. The federal court refused.
Both sides argued Thursday that the high court should not hold them to such a strict limit, saying there are legitimate reasons for higher deviations in equality among districts. For example, representatives elected from each county make up the delegation that set its budget and raises taxes.
"Maintaining each House district within the boundaries of one county is required to allow county government to function as directed by New Hampshire law," pointed out House legal counsel Betsy Miller.
Both sides acknowledge that once county boundaries are added to the mix, it becomes harder to keep low variations among districts.
"The simple fact is that it is physically impossible to create 400 equal House districts (or even 300, for that matter) without ignoring existing city wards for legislative purposes, without subdividing the larger towns into similar legislative districts or without excerpting a portion of the citizens of one town and ëannexingí them for legislative redistricting purposes with those of another town," summed up state Rep. John Pratt, D-Walpole, in a plan he submitted as a friend of the court.
Prattís plan ó like two plans filed by Republican leaders and one by Democrats ó asks the court not to form 400 single-member House seats. All four plans propose using some large, multimember districts and "flotarials" (where two or more towns share a representative) in combination with single-member districts.
Democrats want as many single-member districts as possible, arguing Democrats have a better chance than in huge multimember contests where election laws list Republicans first on the ballot.
"Thereís no place in this state where a Democrat with shoe leather and a couple of good ideas canít give a Republican a good run," said House Democratic Leader Peter Burling of Cornish.
Democrats face a harder time, nevertheless, gaining control of the House where Republicans hold 254 seats to 141 by Democrats and one by Libertarians. Four seats are vacant.
Control of the Senate is up for grabs, however, with Republicans holding a 13-11 edge ó far less than in 1995-1996 when they outnumbered Democrats 18-6. Two years ago, Democrats held a 13-11 margin.
Senate Democrats argue Republican plans would give Republicans the edge in at least 15 districts despite the close division in the chamber over the past four years.
Senate Republicans submitted three plans to the court Thursday while Democrats offered one. Republicans ó like their House counterparts ó argued the court should implement the GOP-passed plan and end the impasse they say Shaheen created with her veto.
Sen. Caroline McCarley, D-Rochester, said that plan represents Republicansí wishes and doesnít reflect results in recent elections.
"This is fundamentally about the constitutional right to representative government," she said.
Admonishing lawmakers to settle their differences, a federal judge tossed a fight over redrawing the 24 Senate districts back to the state Supreme Court yesterday.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe dismissed a Senate Republican request for the federal court to take jurisdiction in their battle with Democrats over reapportioning the Senate. Republicans filed their request Friday.
McAuliffe said Republicans had not made "even a colorable claim" that a plan formulated by the state court would violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
While state and federal courts are prepared to decide the issue, "it is, however, certainly preferable that the political branches do their utmost to resolve what are essentially political questions, rather than abdicating redistricting responsibilities to the courts," McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe noted it is a federal policy that federal courts should not intervene while the state legislative and judicial branches are trying to come up with a constitutional plan.
McAuliffe's order essentially mirrored Senate Democrats' arguments on why the state court should continue to handle the dispute.
State Rep. John Kacavas, the Democrats' lawyer, argued in a filing submitted Wednesday the state court has a right to resolve state disputes without federal interference. He said the federal court should not assume jurisdiction since no federal law has been violated.
Kacavas also argued Senate President Arthur Klemm, a Windham Republican, was not entitled to ask the federal court to take over the case since he is not a defendant. In seeking state court intervention, Democrats sued Secretary of State William Gardner, not Senate Republicans.
McAuliffe agreed, noting that Gardner had not asked for the change in jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, House negotiators made "promising" progress toward a compromise plan for the chamber's 400 seats, Deputy House Speaker Michael Whalley said Wednesday.
House Democratic Leader Peter Burling wasn't as optimistic, however, pointing out that major issues still separated the two sides.
Last week, the state court said it will establish House and Senate districts if lawmakers fail to do so. The court said it would lift its injunction against legislative filings for the Sept. 10 primary if plans are enacted by June 5, the start of the filing period. If nothing is done, the court said it will accept plans until noon June 6 and hold oral arguments June 11.
Secretary of State William Gardner said the fight over redistricting the House and Senate is eating up time he needs to keep September primaries on schedule.
Gardner told the New Hampshire Supreme Court yesterday the stateís election filing period has to end by June 19 for him to get ballots to local election officials in time for the Sept. 10 primary.
The schedule has almost no room for error. The filing date ends June 14 and town clerks mail paperwork to Gardner. State political parties can file candidates to fill vacancies until June 19. Gardner said his office needs 76 days to print and distribute ballots. Ballots have to be out by Sept. 3, one week before the primary.
That means the schedule really canít be changed without disrupting the process.
But the Supreme Court has suspended the filing window, which was supposed to open June 5.
The court is gearing up to redistrict the state into 24 Senate and 400 House seats unless lawmakers can reach compromises first.
More than a year of work at both the House and Senate produced plans that Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed. She said both were unfair and unconstitutional.
Now the fight is in the stateís highest court. Senate President Arthur Klemm, R-Windham, wants the federal court to step in.
The court told those in the House dispute what kind of information it wants in plans they submit. It wants written justification for the plan each side presents. It allowed for so-called floterial districts, which combine two or more towns into an extra representative seat. But it said it wants ìa specific explanation and justification,î for any of the special seats.
Some saw the allowance for floterials as wiggle room they didnít expect after stern orders the court issued last week.
House Democratic Leader Peter Burling of Cornish said heís not sure how to interpret it.
ìWhat this continues to do is highlight the importance of reaching a solution by the legislative process,î he said. ìThat is why I think itís so important to get a mediator to help us find a way through this.î
The court did not issue an order in the Senate case because Klemmís petition is pending at federal court, Supreme Court spokesman Laura Kiernan said.
Rep. John Kacavas, D-Manchester, said yesterday he plans to file a response to Klemmís petition by today.
The state treasurerís office asked the court yesterday to clarify the order from last week that told it to pay court costs for computer software and technicians.
Treasury Commissioner Michael Ablowichís request notes that the state Constitution and past court rulings require the approval of the governor and Executive Council or the Legislature before such expenses can be paid.
Last week, the Supreme Court shocked both the House and Senate by saying it would place the federal one-person, one-vote principle as its highest duty. It warned it might have to set aside state constitutional requirements that towns and wards not be split up. It said federal case law requires it to devise a plan that varies 1 percent from the ideal.
Yesterday, it said House proposals ìshall conform as closely as possible to the constitutional principle of one-person, one-vote.î
A special Senate session set for today was postponed yesterday, primarily because senators have nothing to talk about. When it was first scheduled, Republicans and Democrats hoped to have a plan to vote on. When Klemm went to federal court, talks fell apart.
House negotiators left yesterday with plans to negotiate today.
Setting the stage for a showdown before the state Supreme Court, the Legislature missed a deadline yesterday to enact new boundaries for the 24 Senate and 400 House seats.
The court had given lawmakers until today to act or face court-imposed redistricting. The court said its order outlining the process and schedule could be released as early as today.
In an order last Friday, the court also put a hold on filing for legislative seats for the September primary elections because lawmakers had failed to enact new boundaries. The court reminded lawmakers that a court-imposed plan would aim for maximum equality among districts with minimal variations. Legislators frequently make political accommodations to incumbents when writing their plans that result in much wider variations in population among districts.
If the court begins the process to pick its own plan, lawmakers can still present it with a compromise at any time.
Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed two GOP-backed House plans and a GOP-backed Senate plan. Voting along party lines, 12-11, Senate Democrats sustained her veto of one House plan as well as the Senate plan yesterday. The House sustained the veto of the other House plan. The 208-130 vote fell shy the required two-thirds needed to override.
The Senate didn't debate either plan, but House Republican leaders made a plea for the House to override the veto of the GOP-backed plan.
Deputy Speaker Michael Whalley said negotiations for a compromise fell apart Tuesday night.
"We were very close, but a legislative solution is better than a court solution," he said. "This may be our last opportunity to do anything with our control."
House Democratic Leader Peter Burling said the bill hasn't been part of negotiations for the last three weeks.
"The work goes on and the negotiations are tough, but (the bill) is not a viable device," he said.
Whalley and Burling later said they were open to continuing negotiations, but no meeting is scheduled.
Senate negotiators planned to continue working. A tentative compromise fell apart yesterday morning before the Senate session.
"We worked hard yesterday. We tried to address some of the concerns of the Democrats and in the governor's veto message. I think we were pretty close," said Senate President Arthur Klemm, a Windham Republican.
In her veto messages, Shaheen said both House plans failed to make districts as equal in population as possible. Based on the latest census figures, dividing the state into equal districts would result in each lawmaker representing 3,089 people.
She accused Senate Republicans of gerrymandering to guarantee control over the chamber. Senate Republicans muscled the plan through on a party-line vote. Shaheen noted the plan was "crafted behind closed doors by members of one party" and only made public an hour before it was passed.
Each new Senate district is supposed to be close to an ideal population of 51,491. But Shaheen says the plan's numbers weren't as close as they should have been.
"District 5 is a classic case of partisan gerrymandering at its worst," she said. "The district would consist of two distinct geographical areas, the only physical connection being that the northernmost corner of the town of Wilmot touches the southernmost corner of the town of Grafton. There is no legitimate justification for the creation of this figure-eight district."
Democrats in both chambers had asked the court to intervene after efforts to negotiate new plans failed.
Senate Republicans have asked the court to consider limiting a court-imposed plan to one year to let the next governor and Legislature try again.
The filing period opens June 5. Other offices are not affected by the court's injunction against legislative filings.
Senate President Arthur Klemm asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to limit any court-imposed redistricting plan to this election year.
Klemm, R-Windham, wants the next Legislature and governor to be able to enact a new plan for the next decade.
Republicans are counting on the next governor being Republican.
"But for a deadlock between the two elected branches of government, this court would not be sitting as a super Legislature and governor," Klemm said. "The proper restraint will reduce future tensions between the court system and the elected Legislature, rather than inflame them."
Klemm also wants the court to first decide if the GOP plan vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is constitutional, and use it as a starting point before opening the process to alternatives.
Klemm and Republicans argue Shaheen has thwarted the will of the Republican-controlled Legislature by vetoing its plan in hope of gaining more concessions for Democrats. Democrats hold enough votes to sustain the veto and attempts to negotiate a compromise so far have failed.
Democrats argue the governor has a constitutional role in the lawmaking process the court canít ignore in this or any fight over a vetoed bill.
Democrats asked the court to intervene, which the court agreed to do if no plan is in law by Friday. If the court intervenes, Democrats want it to appoint a master to recommend a redistricting plan by the end of the month.
Klemm told the court it should consult with both sides before Friday to determine if the person being considered to serve as master is acceptable.
The filing period opens June 5 for the Sept. 10 primary.
House Democrats also challenged a GOP plan to redistrict the 400 House seats. The House is under the same deadline to enact new boundaries or face court intervention.
Wednesday, House Republican leaders asked the court to delay intervention until after June 1, saying the filing period could be changed if necessary.
Depending how it is drawn, a district can lean Republican or Democrat. Enough districts leaning toward one party can tip control of the Legislature. Republicans currently enjoy a wide margin of control in the House and a 13-11 edge in the Senate.
House Speaker Gene Chandler asked Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brock to disqualify himself from an ongoing legal dispute over redistricting.
Chandler said the lengthy and bitter impeachment proceeding brought against Brock by the House last year means that Brock canít be impartial in deciding this case.
ìThe justices sitting in this case will be duty-bound to fairly and impartially balance the scales of justice in reaching a result. It would be exceedingly difficult for one to set aside entirely the stinging accusations levied against the chief justice not two years ago by parties to this suit,íí wrote Chandlerís lawyers, Michael Connolly and Christopher Carter, in a brief filed with the court Wednesday.
The House leader also urged the court to move off a deadline of this Friday for lawmakers to come to an agreement on a compromise plan to avoid having the justices resolve the dispute.
A fairer deadline for an agreement, Chandler argued, would be June 1, or four days before the candidate filing season will open for the 2002 elections.
Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has vetoed two GOP-written House redistricting bills, but Chandler said Democratic and Republican leaders are continuing to meet privately to try to hammer out a deal.
The House supported four articles of impeachment against Brock, who was then acquitted by the state Senate during a trial that ended in October 2000.
ìThe speaker respectively submits that recusal is the only effective means to avoid the appearance of bias . . . and to ensure public confidence in the outcome of this proceeding,íí Chandlerís lawyers wrote.
House Deputy Speaker Michael Whalley, R-Bow, said teams of three Republican and Democratic negotiators will meet today, and wide differences between both sides have been narrowed.
House Democratic Leader Peter Burling of Cornish sued Chandler and asked the court to step in if lawmakers couldnít agree on proper boundaries for the 400 House districts.
The Senate redistricting process is also in court, and there have been no negotiating sessions between leaders of both parties in that dispute.
Durham, Rollinsford and Somersworth could have less representation in the New Hampshire House under a redistricting plan proposed by House Republicans on Monday.
The draft was released during tension-packed negotiations leading up to a court deadline of Friday to pass a redistricting law.
No decisions were made, but plenty of insults were exchanged as lawmakers reviewed last-minute changes to Republican and Democratic versions.
By lumping Durham, Rollinsford and Somersworth into a multitown district with the areaís two largest cities ó Dover and Rochester ó the latest Republican plan would hurt the chances of a candidate from one of those three communities winning the office, said Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham.
Smith criticized the plan and questioned if she could even be re-elected under the proposal. The rough draft would combine four of Doverís six wards with Durham and Madbury into a 10-seat district.
Smith reasoned that a candidate from Dover would get the edge based on population: There are 17,886 people in the four Dover wards and 12,664 people in Durham. It was not mentioned, but theoretically Dover could lose one of its nine seats should an election year see strong candidates in Durham and Madbury.
In a similar grouping, two Rochester wards would be combined with Milton, Rollinsford and Somersworth for a nine-seat district.
"Whoís going to represent those interests?" Smith said, referring to an unlikely scenario in which no one hails from Durham. The town now has four House seats. It also shares representation with a district that includes Madbury and Lee.
But given the repeated revisions to plans, House members expect the final product to be markedly different should one be developed by Friday.
Sheila Francoeur, a House Republican leader from Hampton who offered the latest plan, said it could serve as a starting point for additional negotiations. It reduces the number of multitown districts and makes districts more equal in size, she said.
Based on the 2000 census, the ideal district should have 3,089 people. The New Hampshire Constitution requires the state to rework its legislative boundaries every 10 years based on population growth.
Some cities are expected to lose a House seat because population shifted. Laconia and Rochester are set to lose one seat and Portsmouth is expected to lose two seats.
One of the new redistricting plans would give Laconia a chance to maintain six seats, with a shared district that includes Meredith.
What seems to be strictly a mathematical problem is a political minefield because the district changes affect the strength of the Republican and Democratic parties for the next decade.
The high stakes stoked tempers Monday.
"Are we here to negotiate or are we here to posture?" said Democratic Whip Ray Buckley of Manchester. "Are you serious? Or do you just want to yabber on like weíre in kindergarten?"
Deputy House Speaker Michael Whalley, R-Bow, said the negotiations must proceed at a quicker rate if anything is to be accomplished by Friday.
"If we keep coming in here with new plans weíre never going to finish," he said.
House negotiators plan to meet again Wednesday. Time constraints appear to be an obstacle. The court has ordered redistricting laws to be in place by Friday, but the Legislature is not scheduled to convene before May 22.
But should the negotiators strike a compromise, House Democratic Leader Peter Burling said legislative leaders could file the plan with the court by Friday with the intention that the full Legislature review it next week.
The Supreme Court ordered the state Senate on Friday to resolve partisan differences over a redistricting plan by May 17 or risk having the court resolve the impasse.
The four sitting justices unanimously issued instructions to the Senate identical to the ones issued to the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The fifth judge, John Broderick, is still recovering from being assaulted in his home last month.
Earlier Friday, Attorney General Philip McLaughlin argued the existing Senate districts were unconstitutional and should not be the basis for elections this November.
ìThis court will not permit upcoming elections to go forward with unconstitutional districts,î the justices said in response.
Senate President Arthur Klemm, R-Windham, urged the court to reconsider its ultimatum and let lawyer Chuck Douglas argue on May 16 that the plan Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed was constitutionally valid and should be embraced by the court.
ìThe current constitutional crisis is a creature born entirely from the purely political maneuverings of the governor and Senate Democrats,î Douglas wrote in Klemmís petition.
Senate Democratic lawyer John Kacavas said he doesnít believe the justices should let this dispute go later than May 17 before they take action. Senate Democrats have three other law firms assisting Kacavas, including one led by Bill Shaheen, the governorís husband.
Douglas said if the court wonít permit arguments on the three plans the Senate has voted on, it should extend the court-imposed deadline for action to May 22, the date senators had planned to return to take up Shaheenís redistricting veto.
ìThere are three constitutionally valid legislative plans that the court should consider,íí Douglas said. ìIt is respectfully submitted that in light of the fact that this is still a tripartite form of government, this court should adopt a neutral rule of jurisprudence.î
Klemm told reporters he is willing to negotiate with Senate Democrats but continues to believe the Senate GOP plan is the best.
ìMy door is always open to any senator who wants to discuss redistricting but we passed a constitutional plan and still donít know what is wrong with it,î Klemm said.
The Senate Democrats offered their own proposal that died on a 13-11 vote, and Senate Majority Leader Gary Francoeur, R-Hudson, offered one that got only five votes of support.
In her veto, Shaheen said the Senate bill (SB 1) sliced up districts into strange shapes for Republican gain and split apart communities that had been grouped together for generations.
Sen. Caroline McCarley, D-Rochester, said the court can come up with its own redistricting map for the 24 districts if negotiations between senators fail to produce a compromise in the next two weeks.
Despite a possible veto, the Senate approved a Republican-backed House redistricting plan Thursday.
The vote was 12-10.
A similar bill recently was vetoed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who said it failed to make districts as equal in population as possible. Pamela Walsh, her press secretary, said Shaheen is reviewing the bill.
Proponents have said the new version addresses some of the concerns in Shaheenís veto address. The bill would eliminate multi-town districts that overlapped in Mont Vernon, correcting what some said was a potential legal problem. It also revises districts in Coos County, bringing them closer to the ideal population of 3,089 residents.
The plan passed the House and Senate over Democratsí objections.
Critics in the House had argued that another redistricting plan should not be taken up before considering a veto override.
House Democrats have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene in the redistricting dispute.
Republicans have asked the court to dismiss the challenge, arguing lawmakers have plenty of time to resolve differences. They have said the new plan would strengthen the GOPís position in court. (SB336)
Senate Democrats asked the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to take charge of a redistricting dispute with Republicans.
Democrats want the court to declare existing Senate districts unconstitutional and set a deadline for the two sides to redraw all 24 new ones. They also want the court to resolve the issue if no compromise is struck.
A month after Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed a GOP-backed plan, Democrats complain Republicans are unwilling to compromise on a new measure. They called the court challenge their last resort.
"Itís become very clear to the 11 Senate Democrats that we are at an impasse," Rochester Democrat Caroline McCarley said. "We feel that certainly a part of redistricting is a process of political negotiation... Weíve attempted to do that, I believe, over and over again."
Rather than discussions, "we basically had monologues because the Republicans never responded to anything," Durham Democrat Katie Wheeler said.
But Republicans insist the GOP plan is constitutional.
Senate President Arthur Klemm, R-Windham, believes the court challenge is premature, as the Senate has not yet considered a veto override ó scheduled for May 22. Democrats have enough votes to sustain the veto.
"I regret that the Democrats have gone to court and tried to do an end run around the legislative process," he said. "I stand ready to work with anyone who comes forward with a plan."
Democrats, however, contend time is running out because the filing period for the next election opens June 5. They want the court to insist that lawmakers implement a constitutional redistricting plan before the legislative session ends in late May.
Residents interested in running for election need to know which communities they will represent, McCarley explained. Voters also should know who their representatives might be, she added.
Their request mirrors a recent challenge from House Democrats, who asked the court to referee a dispute over a GOP-backed House redistricting plan. Arguments will be heard next month.
The court filing also shows that, rather than Republicans, Senate Democrats are suing Secretary of State William Gardner, who is in charge of elections. He could not be reached immediately for comment.
Democrats seek to prevent Gardner from opening the filing period for Senate candidates or conducting Senate elections on existing Senate boundaries.
Their lawyer, John Kacavas, said current boundaries are unconstitutional because district populations are out of whack with new census figures. Each new district is supposed to be close to an ideal population of 51,491.
Republicans, meanwhile, have stood by their plan, arguing it reflects population changes over the last 10 years. Population grew in the southern part of the state, decreased in the north and decreased in many cities.
Democrats accuse Republicans of stacking the deck in their favor. They also say the plan fails to ensure every citizenís vote counts equally and splits districts with long-held ties.
The stakes are high ó potentially control over the 24-member chamber for the next decade. The Democratic party holds 11 seats. The plan would make at least 16 seats safely Republican, they say.
The Senate also had considered a new GOP plan that supporters said made districts closer to the ideal size. It failed 15-6.
Democrats argued it pitted several incumbents against each other. It also broke apart strongly Democratic Nashua and placed Durham and Portsmouth in the same district.
Among other changes, the plan would pit Nashua Democrat Debora Pignatelli against Hudson Republican Gary Francoeur, Bedford Republican Sheila Roberge against Manchester Democrat Lou DíAllesandro, and Democrat Dan OíNeil against Republican Ted Gatsas, both of Manchester.
It also would have removed Claremont Democrat George Disnard from District 8 and placed him in District 5, where heíd fight against Lebanon Democrat Clifton Below.
Wheeler called the measure a delay tactic.
The redistricting dispute took a further turn that day, when Rep. Keith Herman, R-Milford, announced plans to ask for Kacavasí removal as a state representative. Kacavas is a Manchester Democrat.
Herman says Kacavasí participation in the case violates the constitution, which states no legislator will take fees, be of counsel or act as an advocate in any cause before either the House or Senate. Members who do so must give up their seats.
Kacavas denied a conflict.
"Iím not lobbying," he said. "Thatís proscribed by the constitution. Thatís not what Iím doing here. Iím representing the 11 petitioners."
House Republican leaders plan to file a complaint with a legislative ethics committee, Herman said. Should the committee find a violation and recommend punishment, the full House would vote on it
House Republican leaders Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss a redistricting challenge from Democrats, arguing lawmakers have plenty of time to resolve differences.
Republicans were responding to a Democratic request that the court intervene in a dispute over redistricting 400 House seats. Democrats want the court to set a deadline for new districts to be established so that they will be in place before June 5, when filing begins for the Sept. 10 primary elections.
If no compromise is reached, Democrats want the court to decide on a plan.
In their court filing, Republicans argued lawmakers still have several options, including an alternative redistricting plan the House passed Wednesday, 200-140, over Democratsí objections.
"To bring this action now, when the Legislature has not had an adequate opportunity to address the redistricting issue, is premature and the controversy is not ripe for adjudication," Republicans said.
Canaan Republican David Scanlan made a similar argument on the House floor, saying the new plan would strengthen the GOPís position in court. The plan was amended onto a bill to study campaign finance reforms.
Democrats, however, complained the new redistricting plan was almost identical to a GOP-backed bill vetoed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Shaheen had said the original plan failed to make districts as equal in population as possible.
Critics also argued that another redistricting plan should not be taken up before the House considers a veto override.
Proponents said the new version deals with some of the concerns in Shaheenís veto address. The bill would eliminate multi-town districts that overlapped in Mont Vernon ó correcting what Scanlan said was a potential legal problem. It also revises districts in Coos County, bringing them closer to the ideal population of 3,089 residents.
Republicans insisted in their court filing there are other options ó offering a whole new series of redistricting plans for the House or even postponing the June 5 filing date.
House Speaker Gene Chandler and his leadership team also havenít ruled out an attempt at overriding Shaheenís veto. The Democratsí lawsuit, however, argues Republicans lack the votes to do so ó leaving on the books districts dating to 1992 that are unconstitutional.
Republicans also noted that in a 1982 redistricting dispute, the court provided the Legislature the opportunity to determine a redistricting plan before taking any action. They said legislators were working within an even shorter time in that case.
They pointed out that primary elections will not occur until September, and the court would be "premature in usurping the Legislatureís role in forming redistricting plans."
"The court must give great weight to the impact of its decision on the separation of powers and electoral process," Republicans said. "Many courts have permitted elections to proceed under plans already declared unconstitutional, in order to permit the legislative process to perform in an orderly fashion."
During the floor debate, Assistant Deputy Speaker Keith Herman urged Democrats to explain their sense of negotiations after filing their lawsuit.
House Democratic Leader Peter Burling replied they have been and remain ready to work together.
Burling said the suit was brought forward because "it was our sense time was running out and not getting affirmative response to good faith negotiations. We are ready to negotiate in good faith if you are."
Calling some of its provisions ridiculous, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen yesterday vetoed a House redistricting plan she says fails the constitutional requirement that districts be as equal in population as possible.
Shaheen also said the plan was internally inconsistent in its treatment of different parts of the state and unnecessarily changes districts.
"For citizens in a representative democracy like ours, the right to vote is a precious right, but that right is empty unless we ensure that each vote is counted and counted equally," she said in her veto message to the House.
Last Friday, the Democratic governor vetoed a GOP-crafted plan for the 24-member Senate she said gerrymandered districts to make 16 safely Republican.
Democrats hold enough votes in the Legislature to sustain both vetoes, making court challenges likely if the two parties don't compromise. Deputy Speaker Michael Whalley of Bow said even if the House mustered the two-thirds needed to override the veto, it would be sustained in the Senate, where Democrats hold 11 seats.
Whalley said the veto would not be taken up at today's House session. The House isn't meeting next week.
If the issue winds up in court, Whalley said Republicans believe they will win.
There's not much time to come up with redistricting plans before the state hits up against two deadlines: plans must arrive at the U.S. Department of Justice for review by tomorrow; and the filing period for the next election begins June 5.
Lawmakers also are scheduled to adjourn on May 3.
Shaheen criticized the House plan as having many of the same flaws as the Senate one. Though the House plan passed largely along party lines, there were some bipartisan agreements negotiated during its development. Democrats were unhappy with boundaries in a half dozen areas.
Last-minute negotiations to reach compromise failed.
"Democrats offered (a compromise) to them repeatedly and they said, 'No, they don't want to negotiate,'" said Rep. John Pratt, D-Walpole.
House Speaker Gene Chandler, a Republican from Bartlett, wrote Shaheen Wednesday that it wouldn't be fair to grant Democrats' request to alter six areas without also opening it up to suggested changes from Republicans. He noted bipartisan agreement was reached before its adoption on seven of the state's 10 counties.
"It is important to note that in the context of the adoption of the statewide plan, the issues raised are a very small piece of the entire redistricting puzzle," he said. Republican Party Chairman John Dowd called the veto "gamesmanship" to satisfy a handful of Democratic incumbents unhappy with the redrawn districts.
Lawmakers are required every 10 years to redraw district boundary lines to reflect the latest census figures. This time, the state must divide its 1,235,786 residents into 400 House districts as evenly as possible, with the ideal district having 3,089 residents. Shaheen told reporters the more than 22 percent deviation from the ideal "unacceptable."
The plan also unnecessarily changes the boundaries of long-existing, traditional districts, Shaheen said. "I think that's unfortunate."
"And then it does things that are just ridiculous, like makes a district of all of Nashua, that has 86,000 people," she added.
The intent of redistricting is setting boundaries as close to perfect as possible, Shaheen said.
The seat Shaheen referred to is a "flotarial district" in Nashua that the city requested to avoid redrawing ward lines. Flotarial districting is when representatives are elected by more than one town or ward to maintain the correct ratio of House members to residents.
"Flotarial districts lie at the heart of many of the problems with (the plan)," she wrote the House. Flotarials are created unnecessarily in some counties and not where they are warranted in others, she said. She accused the Republican majority of creating flotarials where it benefited the GOP and rejecting them where Democrats benefited. "Such inconsistency in redistricting is unacceptable," she wrote. "It highlights the willingness of the majority to bend a supposed rule when it suits the purpose of limiting minority party representation."
The House plan would cut the numbers of House seats in most of the state's 13 cities and would add seats in southern suburban and rural areas. Southern counties that would gain seats had the largest population increases during the 1990s.
Berlin, Claremont, Keene, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua and Rochester all would lose one seat if the plan becomes law. Portsmouth, which lost Pease Air Force Base early in the decade, would lose two seats. Dover keeps its nine seats.
Concord would keep its 13 seats. Franklin would hold its three seats, but one would be shared with Salisbury.
Lebanon would lose its fifth seat, which it shares with Enfield. Somersworth would gain a seat that would be shared with Rollinsford.
Counties that grew the fastest would pick up seats: Hillsborough and Rockingham would get two each, and Merrimack and Carroll one each.
Coos and Strafford counties would each
lose two seats while Cheshire and Sullivan would lose one apiece. Belknap
and Grafton counties would see no change.