New Hampshire's Redistricting
Concord Monitor: "Court could
be asked to draw the line." March 27, 2002
For the first time in history, the state Supreme Court could define the legislative district boundaries that will shape the state's politics for the next decade.
Under the state constitution, the Legislature is supposed to divide New Hampshire into new legislative districts after each 10-year U.S. Census, distributing the state's population among them as evenly as possible. In the past - after the inevitable wrangling - the parties have put the new district lines into bills, passed them, and the governor has signed them into law.
This year, things are not going so smoothly.
The Republican-controlled Legislature has approved House and Senate redistricting bills, over shouts of discontent from the minority party. Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has promised to veto the Senate plan on the grounds that it divides communities with common interests in order to produce 16 to 18 Republican-leaning districts with unconstitutionally disproportionate populations. She is considering axing the House plan as well.
The Republicans don't have the two-thirds majority to override a veto. But with the Republican leaders of both chambers declaring the time for negotiations has come and gone, the sides are at a standoff. As the June 6 opening of the candidate filing period for this year's elections grows closer, so does the likelihood that the matter will wind up before the high court.
At the State House, lawmakers and aides are preparing their court cases. They are mostly researching case law in federal courts and other states, however. The only time the redistricting issue came before the state Supreme Court was in 1982, when then-Gov. Hugh Gallen vetoed the Senate's redistricting plan. The court issued an order stating that it would not hesitate to impose a plan if the parties failed to negotiate a compromise by May 28, days before the 1982 candidate filing period was scheduled to open on June 2. The senators went back to work, struck a deal, and that was the end of it.
But it seems that this time, the court might have to actually decide the matter. Sen. Robert Boyce, a Republican from Alton who authored the Senate plan, said negotiations would require his party to make concessions, and the Senate Republicans have no interest in that.
"The best that would happen is that we would have a worse plan than what we passed," he said.
House Speaker Gene Chandler said Democrats had plenty of time to talk with Republicans about redistricting during the committee process that was conducted in public and took the better part of a year.
"We're sticking by what we have done," he said.
Republicans say they are confident that the Supreme Court would find no fault with the plans that have passed the Legislature. Both, they say, adhere to the constitutional requirements, as well as those established in case law elsewhere: They satisfy the one-person, one-vote rule; they keep communities with common interests together as often as possible, and they divvy the population among the districts within an acceptable range of deviation from the ideal size.
The House and Senate Democrats contend that they have come up with their own redistricting schemes whose districts divide the population more evenly. The Republicans, they say, have pushed through plans that do not divide the population as evenly as possible - and, in the process, separate communities with common interests - in order to produce Republican-leaning districts. That, they say, is unconstitutional because the constitution mandates the Legislature divide the population into districts "as nearly equal as may be."
So if the court had to impose a plan, the Democrats say the justices would pick theirs.
"Our plan is demonstrably more equal," said Sen. Clifton Below, a Democrat from Lebanon.
But Republicans say the population figures will not be the court's overriding consideration.
"Redistricting is not a matter of pure mathematical function," said Senate Counsel Rick Lehmann, who may represent the Senate Republicans if the dispute goes to court. "If it was, that's not a task the constitution would assign to the Legislature," but rather to a mathematician, he said.
The Democrats concede that previous redistricting plans have never split the population as evenly as mathematically possible - considerations like keeping communities with common interests together in the same district skewed the numbers somewhat. But, Democrats say, those plans were political compromises; they became law by winning the approval of both houses and the governor.
Republicans, however, say that despite a veto, the court should give great weight to the fact that both houses of the Legislature passed the plans - Part II, Art. 26 of the constitution specifically assigns the task of redistricting to the Legislature.
House Counsel Betsy Miller says Republicans could argue that if the court has to pick a plan, it should choose the one adopted by both houses, as long as it is constitutional.
"It rests basically on the argument that the Legislature is a political body, and reapportionment is a political activity," Miller said. "And because the House and the Senate are the judges of the qualifications of their members, that it's in their power to establish the districts in which those members are elected."
"I don't believe they could tell us to take the Democratic plan and implement it," Boyce said. "It turns it upside down - since we didn't pass that plan, I don't think they could tell us to adopt it."
But Sen. Mark Fernald, a Democrat from Sharon, says that a vetoed Republican plan is no more legitimate than the Democratic plans that failed to pass either chamber.
For a bill to pass, he said, "you need to have it go through the House, the Senate and the governor. If you don't have those three pieces, then you've got nothing."
But Republicans may challenge the governor's very authority to veto a redistricting plan. In fact, Boyce said, the Senate Republicans may consider attaching their plan to a concurrent resolution - a concurrent resolution does not require the governor's signature, but it does not have the force of law. To be sure, he said, the state has throughout its history enacted new legislative boundaries through legislation.
"But just because we've always done it that way doesn't mean that's the way it has to be done," he said.
Democrats find that argument ridiculous - at the very least, because the current district boundaries are law, and changing a law requires legislation.
"They're trying to take the governor out of the process, and the constitution puts her right in the middle of it," Fernald said.
Judy Reardon, Shaheen's legal counsel, said that there are many tasks that, like redistricting, the constitution assigns to the Legislature - including levying taxes. Yet no one, she said, has ever suggested the Legislature could pass a tax without the governor's signature or a veto override.
In addition, Reardon notes, a constitutional amendment adopted in 1978 mentions "a law providing for an apportionment to form senatorial districts" - in recognition, she said, that redistricting is done by law. She also said that the court has recognized that longstanding governmental practices reveal the meaning of a law.
The 2002 legislative redistricting plans are on their way to Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who has promised to veto the Senate plan and might do the same with the House plan.
The House passed the Senate's plan 203-146 yesterday, despite a vigorous challenge from members of both parties. The Senate returned the favor, approving the new House districts in a 13-11 vote.
For months, the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Democratic governor have been moving, slow as iron-hulled ships, toward a clash in the courts over the redistricting maps. New districts are redrawn every 10 years to account for population changes registered by the U.S. Census.
Shaheen has vowed to veto the Senate plan since it passed in February, on the grounds that it would split up communities with common interests in an attempt to ensure Republican dominion of the Senate for the next decade. Republicans don't have the votes to override her veto.
Despite a letter Shaheen sent to all 24 senators on Wednesday urging the parties to negotiate a bipartisan compromise, the Senate Republicans made no move to open discussions with Democrats yesterday.
If Shaheen hasn't signed off on both chambers' new districts by April 6, 60 days before the June filing date for candidates in this year's election, a petitioner could ask the courts to settle the matter. In addition, Republicans in both Houses suggested they might mount a court challenge to the governor's authority to veto legislative redistricting plans.
Sen. Robert Boyce, a Republican from Alton who authored the Senate redistricting plan, said he wasn't sure what his party's next move would be if the governor made good on her veto threat.
"It's completely uncharted territory," he said. The last time a governor vetoed a redistricting plan was in 1982, when Hugh Gallen blocked the Senate plan. The two parties wasted little time negotiating a deal, avoiding a court fight.
Boyce hinted that the Senate Republicans might try to pass their redistricting scheme as a concurrent resolution if the governor vetoes the Senate redistricting bill.
That would surely provoke a court challenge from Democrats: A concurrent resolution does not require the governor's signature, but it does not have the force and effect of law.
"I have a real question as to whether or not we have to do it as a bill sent to the governor," he said.
At the request of House Speaker Gene Chandler, Senate Republicans dropped a last-minute attempt to lump the two chambers' plans together - a move a Senate committee made earlier this week, in what most lawmakers viewed as an attempt to discourage the governor from vetoing the Senate plan.
House Republicans objected because they thought their bill might escape a veto if Shaheen considered it separately.
On the House side, debate over the Senate plan became hot at times. In an unlikely twist, it was mostly conservative Republicans who implored their colleagues to delay the bill's passage or kill it altogether. (Not a single Democrat voted against the plan, but they said little during the floor showdown.)
Rep. Tony Soltani, a Republican from Epsom, said the Senate Republicans had engaged in unabashed gerrymandering to preserve GOP power, and the result had sullied "the good name of my party." The GOP senators, he said, had attempted to solidify their strength by chopping up Democratic Senate districts and putting Democratic-leaning communities with groups of Republican-leaning ones. Though Republicans might not agree with Democrats on issues, the Democrats still deserve a voice at the table, he said.
"Some day we're going to have to confront a Democratic majority," Soltani said. "And if they try to do to us what we're trying to do to them, we will have no moral authority to stand up and say, 'What you're doing is wrong.' "
But the plan passed easily, 203-146. The majority appeared to side with House Republican leaders, who said that whatever the bill's flaws may be, a veto would be the fastest way to get senators back to the table.
Speaker Pro Tem Bob Clegg, a Republican from Hudson, spoke against a motion to recommit the bill to a House committee for changes.
"There is no sense in recommitting, except to delay the process," he said.
Republican leaders also said the House should adhere to State House custom when it came to considering the other chamber's redistricting scheme.
"As tradition goes, when the Senate plan comes over, we do not tinker with their plan," said Majority Leader David Scanlan.
Once the bills get to the governor's desk, she has five days to veto them. Both chambers must then vote on whether to override, which requires a two-thirds majority to succeed.
Gov. Jeanne Shaheen left little doubt about the fate of the Senate's proposal to lump together redistricting plans for House, Senate and congressional districts.
"They should stop playing chicken. I said I'm going to veto it and I meant that," Shaheen told reporters Wednesday.
The Senate Internal Affairs Committee on Tuesday combined several redistricting plans into one bill - which some interpreted as a strategy to get Shaheen to sign the Senate plan.
"If they thought (combining the plans into one bill) would make a difference in how I view it, they are absolutely wrong," Shaheen said.
She said the Senate plan was designed to benefit Republicans, does not comply with the one-person-one-vote requirement and breaks up long-established voting districts while creating new districts of communities that have little in common.
Redistricting is required every decade to comply with new census data.
The committee voted to recommend that the new measure pass in the full Senate, which votes on it Thursday. Shaheen said the Senate should pass the bill quickly so she can veto it and they can come up with another.
In a letter to state senators dated Wednesday, Shaheen urged them to work together. She noted that the last time the state went through redistricting, she was a senator and the party makeup in the Senate was identical - 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats.
"Then, members of both parties were able to work together in a bipartisan manner to craft redistricting legislation," she wrote. "I am extremely disappointed that, to date, that has not occurred this year."
She said lawmakers need to come up with a bipartisan redistricting plan soon to avoid having the issue land in court.
A Republican Senate redistricting plan is on its way to the House floor, a step closer to Gov. Jeanne Shaheen's promised veto.
The Senate passed the plan on a party-line, 13-11 vote last month, over Democratic protests that it was not a fair division of the state's population but unbridled gerrymandering.
Yesterday, Republicans defended their plan before the House Election Law Committee as fair and reasonable. Irate Democratic senators and House members from both parties, meanwhile, called upon the committee to revise it.
According to custom, each chamber rubber-stamps the other's redistricting scheme. Though many House committee members called the Senate plan flawed yesterday, they decided to stick with tradition and send it to the full House unchanged rather than meddle in the other chamber's family squabble.
"Let the senators go back in their sandbox and throw sand in each other's face and get back to us on this," said Rep. Douglass Techner, a Republican from Pike.
Some committee members said they hoped the Senate would reach a last-minute bipartisan compromise on the bill before it reached the House floor. If the governor's veto threat couldn't rekindle negotiations, they said, perhaps an actual veto would.
But House Speaker Pro Tem Bob Clegg, a Republican from Hudson, said he didn't expect the controversy to end soon. Democrats would not rest until Republicans gave in to all their demands, he said, and the GOP, which controls both chambers, certainly would not submit to such bullying. If Shaheen vetoed the plan, he said, Republicans could try to challenge her authority to do so.
"I'm positive it's going to go to court," he said.
At yesterday's hearing, Senate Democrats reiterated the complaints they raised during the debate before the Senate vote. They said the plan lumped together towns that had nothing in common - such as Webster and Cornish, and Wolfeboro and Rochester - to produce at least 16 Republican-leaning districts. Meanwhile, they said, communities that had long shared districts would be severed - New Castle and Rye, for example, would be cut off from Portsmouth, and Portsmouth would share a senator with Nottingham.
Sen. Clifton Below, a Democrat from Lebanon, said the New Hampshire electorate was almost evenly split between the parties: In the 2000 Senate elections, he said, 50.5 percent all the votes cast were for Republican candidates and 49.5 percent for Democratic candidates.
"This is clearly an attempt to make the Senate look like what the state does not look like," said Sen. Caroline McCarley, a Democrat from Rochester.
If the Republicans had had any interest in dividing up the state fairly, Democrats said, they would have shown some interest in one of Below's many alternative plans, which divided the populations up more evenly among the districts.
Republican senators said they had held meetings on redistricting in every county and had taken public input into account when they crafted their plan. In the end, though, they said they couldn't please everybody.
"Some people will be upset simply because things have to change," said Sen. Bob Flanders, a Republican from Antrim.
Republicans said their plan conformed to the "one person, one vote" principle by distributing the population among the 24 districts evenly enough, if not perfectly. Sen. Robert Boyce, a Republican from Alton, said the highest deviation from the ideal per-district population in the Republican plan was 9.4 percent. This would be an improvement, he said, over the Senate redistricting plans of 1982 and 1992, which had much greater deviation ranges - 22.7 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively.
"So we've been going in the right direction over the last 30 years," he said.
Boyce said he didn't consider Shaheen's veto threat when he cast his vote, and he would be content if the House passed his plan as written to the governor.
"Whether she's going to veto it or not is up to her," he said. "I think it's a good plan and the House should adopt it."
Some in the House may try to challenge the GOP plan. Rep. Marshall "Lee" Quandt, a Republican from Exeter, said he and some of his conservative colleagues may join with Democrats and moderate Republicans to kill it on the House floor.
Quandt wants to run for state Senate; if the plan passed, he would have to face veteran Sen. Jack Barnes, a Republican from Raymond, in a primary. Under the current district divisions, he could run for the open District 23 seat that will be vacated by Sen. Beverly Hollingworth, a Democrat from Hampton, who is running for governor.
But he said he objects to the Senate Republicans' plan because it violates "Republican principles" of fairness, compromise and historic tradition - not because of his own political interests.
"The state Republican party has their fingers in this up to their elbows," he said.
Facing a sure veto, a Senate redistricting plan moved forward Wednesday with a preliminary stamp of approval from the House Election Law Committee.
Members voted 10-5 to recommend the planís passage in the House. The measure passed the Senate earlier this year strictly along party lines.
Critics ó mostly Democrats ó are lobbying hard against the measure because it would split towns that traditionally have been in the same districts. They also accuse Senate Republicans of stacking the deck.
Sen. Caroline McCarley, D-Rochester, urged members to act quickly on an alternate plan because the filing period for the next election is in June.
"Itís time we took a couple of train wrecks off the map based on what we have to do between now and May," she said. "Iíd like to see us do this one again. This is not a plan we actually want to see people running on."
But Senate Republicans insist the changes were necessary because New Hampshireís population has shifted dramatically since the last Census. They also pointed fingers at Democrats for developing alternate plans they said were biased toward their own.
"The end result didnít please everybody," Sen. Robert Boyce, R-Alton, said of his plan. "I donít want to lose the town and the city I have in my own district now, but we all have to grit our teeth and accept some things we may not want" to make the numbers work.
The goal is creating districts close to an ideal population of 51,491 people in each, based on the latest Census figures.
Gov. Jeanne Shaheen said the planís numbers arenít as close as they should be.
"Governor Shaheen will veto it," her spokeswoman, Pam Walsh, said. "The goal for redistricting is to ensure every citizenís vote counts equally. Thatís not what this plan does."
Rep. Marshall Quandt, an Exeter Republican, also attacked the plan for splitting up Seacoast towns that traditionally have been in the same districts.
The plan would move Exeter away from Hampton and into District 17. Quandt, who is planning a run for the state Senate, would be pitted against incumbent Sen. Jack Barnes, R-Raymond.
Sen. Cliff Below, D-Lebanon, accused Senate Republicans of "blatant political gerrymandering." The plan would practically ensure at least 16 Republican seats in the 24-member Senate, he said. The Senate now is divided 13-11.
Most opponents at Wednesdayís hearing urged lawmakers to consider a series of alternate plans, but others wanted it to be passed so that it arrives on the governorís desk for a quick veto. The next step likely would be a court challenge, but it may be the only way to get Republicans and Democrats working together, they said.
"It may be beneficial to just let it be vetoed," Concord Democrat Sylvia Larsen said. "We need to have a bipartisan decision as soon as possible.... It would go to the court, but the court will likely tell us to do what weíre supposed to be doing, which is, talk to each other..."
Other states recently have had redistricting plans thrown out in court.
A Virginia judge this week agreed with Democratic claims that the mapping of legislative districts was unconstitutional and ordered a new map and new House elections.
In North Carolina, the state Supreme Court halted all legislative primaries set for May 7 because of a lower-court ruling that the newly drawn legislative districts were unconstitutional.
Despite arguments to rework New Hampshireís plan, committee members said it was unrealistic for the House to come up with a new measure that would be well received in the Senate. They also noted that the House and the Senate traditionally rubber-stamp each otherís redistricting plans.
"The Senate doesnít mess with our plan and we donít mess with their plan," Rep. Douglass Teschner, R-Pike, said before the vote. "Let the senators go back to their sandbox and throw sand in each otherís face."
A House committee endorsed a redistricting plan for state representatives Tuesday after a heated meeting.
The plan, which the Republican-dominated committee approved 13-6, cuts the numbers of representative seats in most cities and adds them to southern suburban and rural areas. Overall, the state's southern counties would benefit most, since they had the largest population increases over the past decade.
Redistricting is necessary to reflect the 2000 U.S. Census. Law requires dividing the state's 1,235,786 people into 400 districts as evenly sized as possible, with the ideal district having 3,089 residents. However, few plans proposed are so neat.
Committee members nearly got into a shouting match before Chairman Janet Arndt, a Windham Republican, gaveled the group to order.
Democrats accused the Republicans of gerrymandering, drawing district lines to disperse Democratic areas in multiple districts.
But Majority Leader David Scanlan said the process was open and fair. Committee members made few changes to plan passed by a special subcommittee that worked through the summer and fall.
"I think the plan will pass the House when it hits the floor, and I fully expect it to be successful in court should Democrats choose to challenge it," the Canaan Republican said.
"It's a credible job, but its never going to be perfect," Rep. Douglass Teschner, R-Pike, said.
In the final analysis, cities lost representative seats to town, which grew faster.
Berlin, Claremont, Dover, Keene, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua and Rochester all lose one seat if the plan becomes law. Portsmouth, which lost Pease Air Force Base early in the decade, would lose two seats .
Concord would keep its 13 seats. Franklin would hold its three House seats, but one of its representatives will also represent Salisbury.
Lebanon would lose its fifth seat, which it now shares with Enfield. Somersworth gains a seat, but only because it shares one with Rollinsford.
Counties that grew the fastest gain would pick up seats: Hillsborough and Rockingham gain two each; Merrimack and Carroll gain one each.
Coos and Strafford counties would each lose two seats while Cheshire and Sullivan lose one each. Belknap and Grafton counties would have no change.
The plan will likely come up for a vote at the House session scheduled for Feb. 14. It would then move to the Senate for its approval.
The struggle to reach a compromise on how to redraw 24 state senatorial districts to bring them in line with the 2000 Census continues after an expected vote on one plan was delayed Thursday.
The Senate was supposed to vote on a redistricting plan, but Republicans decided to delay it by one week. They did not elaborate on the possible changes that prompted the delay.
Their proposal would create a third senator to represent Nashua, and eliminate one seat in the western part of the state. That move would pit two Democratic incumbents against each other for the one seat.
The Republican plan also would split up towns that traditionally have been in the same districts, such as New Castle and Portsmouth.
"We need more time," said Antrim Republican Robert Flanders as to why they delayed action. "Itís a 10-year-deal."
Earlier this week, Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen promised to veto the current plan, and Republicans would not have enough support to override it. If lawmakers canít agree on a plan, the matter could go to court.
Democrats criticize the plan as partisan and argue it doesnít comply with the constitutional requirement of "one person, one vote." For these purposes, that means having districts that are close to the same size.
The goal is to create districts close to an ideal population of 51,491 people in each, based on the latest Census figures. Current district sizes are out askew because New Hampshireís population has changed so much during the last decade.
Republicans said Shaheenís veto promise was not a factor in deciding to postpone Thursdayís vote. Democrats had their own speculations.
"Some of them (probably) understand if it ends up in court they could be big losers," Lebanon Democrat Clifton Below said.
Below cautioned that lawmakers donít have much time come up with a plan. The new boundaries should be approved by the Legislature and the governor by early April, 60 days before the filing period for the next election, he said.
Democrats had offered several redistricting alternatives, but all were rejected.
The Senate will vote Thursday on a Republican plan to redraw its 24 districts that would create a third senator to represent Nashua and force two Democrats from the western part of the state to run against one another.
Incumbent Democrats George Disnard of Claremont and Clifton Below of Lebanon would be in the same district while a third Democrat on the Seacoast, Burt Cohen of New Castle, would be left with 12 percent of his original district.
The 3-2 vote of the Senate Internal Affairs Committee, which came down along party lines Tuesday, sets up a partisan showdown that some Senate Democrats warn will end with a veto by Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
"There's no desire to do anything other than show your political muscle. This plan will be vetoed. This will never happen," Sen. Katie Wheeler, D-Durham, said after the vote.
Shaheen publicly has urged Republican and Democratic legislators to come together on proposals, which thus far the Senate has failed to do.
Committee Chairman Bob Flanders, R-Antrim, said the job wasn't easy because every plan must shift communities on the Seacoast, North Country and the southwestern corner of the state.
Flanders denied the aim was partisan and pointed out that Senate Democratic amendments would have moved the hometowns of Republican incumbents into different districts.
"Drastic times, drastic changes, drastic maps," Flanders said.
Senate Democrats offered three alternatives, all rejected by the same, 3-2 vote.
The Senate panel also approved by the same 3-2 vote a map that adjusted the state's two congressional districts by moving Epsom and Pittsfield from District 1 to District 2.
As chairman of the ad hoc redistricting committee for the Senate and congressional districts, I would like your readers to know that we have now finished visiting and listening to the citizens of all 10 counties.
I presented our committee report to the Senate Internal Affairs Committee on Jan. 10, and the Internal Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on the redistricting plan on Friday in rooms 206-208 of the Legislative Office Building. This will be a public session where the citizens of New Hampshire are invited to attend and offer their input. No state senator wishes to lose a community from his or her district. Unfortunately, the 2000 census has dictated that some of the districts in New Hampshire will have citizens added to them and some will have citizens subtracted from them. The most drastic change will occur in the North Country, District 1. Since the last census 10 years ago, the North Country has lost 7,000 citizens. This makes it necessary for District 1 to be extended farther south. This theory, of course, is subject to the approval of the full Senate. With this potential for drastic change to the middle and southern tier of the state, I could lose four communities in District 17. This has been quite distressing to me, as for the past seven years, I have had the pleasure of working with the fine people who make up District 17. It is possible that I will lose Loudon, Chichester, Epsom and Allenstown. However, it is important for everyone to know that the current senators and representatives will continue to represent existing districts until the first week of December 2002. I have seen numerous articles in the newspapers that I thought might generate confusion among my communities regarding the redistricting process. That is why I am writing this letter. If you should have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. My office phone number is, 271-2642, and my home phone number is 895-9352. Please note the date for the public hearing. Your comments will be welcome. Senator Jack Barnes Raymond
Democrats offered a Senate redistricting plan Thursday that contrasts sharply with a Republican plan by leaving all but one incumbent in his home district.
State GOP Chairman John Dowd submitted a plan last month that would mean four incumbents would compete for two seats in the next election.
The Democratic plan would move Republican Russell Prescottís hometown of Kingston into the district now represented by Democratic Leader Beverly Hollingworth. Democrats pointed out the two would not face off in November because Hollingworth is running for governor.
The Senate is working on new districts based on the 2000 census.
Sen. Caroline McCarley, D-Rochester, said Democrats attempted to equalize the 24 districts by keeping communities with similar interests together. No districts were drawn to protect or defeat incumbents, she said.
Republicans have a 13-11 majority in the Senate. Senate Republicans are expected to recommend a redistricting plan separate from Dowdís by Tuesday.
A hearing on all plans is scheduled for Jan. 18.
Dowdís plan would force Manchester Democrat Lou DíAllesandro to run against nine-term incumbent Sheila Roberge, R-Bedford, and would leave DíAllesandro with only his home ward from his current district. Two other Democratic incumbents would face off against each other in a primary ó Sens. Katie Wheeler of Durham and Burt Cohen of New Castle.
Dowdís proposal also would create three districts without incumbents: one anchored by Derry; another by Dover and Somersworth; and a new Nashua-area district.
Under the Democratic plan, Derry would anchor District 19, now represented by Prescott. The district would lose Kingston and Hampstead, but gain Atkinson and Chester.
DíAllesandroís District 20 would be untouched, as would those of Democrats Daniel OíNeil of Manchester (District 18) and Debora Pignatelli of Nashua (District 13) and Republican Gary Francoeur of Hudson (District 14).
Traditionally, the House and Senate rubber-stamp each otherís redistricting plans, so the key votes will be the ones each casts on its plan. Republicans control both chambers, but Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, could reject plans adopted over Democratic protests. The plans also could be challenged in court.
The fight is over which towns to tack onto which districts, and to which partyís advantage. Sen. Clifton Below, D-Lebanon, said the Democratic plan tends to moderately strengthen each partyís hold on the districts it has.
"Weíve tried very hard not to be partisan in this plan and to let the numbers drive it," he said.
Sen. Robert Boyce, R-Alton, questioned the legality of dividing Laconia between two districts, as Democrats propose. McCarley said the Senateís lawyer said it would be legal.
The Legislature also is adjusting U.S. House districts. The Democrats propose moving New Hampton and Meredith from the 1st Congressional District to the 2nd.
Rep. Fran Wendelboe, R-New Hampton, already has announced her candidacy for the 1st District seat. The constitution allows candidates to run in districts even if they donít live there, but most donít.
Dowd suggested transferring Epsom and Pittsfield to the 2nd District instead.
The 1st District has 625,527 residents compared to 610,259 in the 2nd. An even split would give each 617,893.
A House committee planning how to carve out state representatives' seats based on the 2000 census didn't get far at a meeting yesterday.
As the hearing started, Election Law Committee members found they hadn't been given maps and other information on the latest plan, prompting concern the Republican majority wants lawmakers to rubber -stamp it.
The hearing will continue tomorrow.
"It's astounding to me this committee is meeting without basic materials," said Walpole Democrat John Pratt, who served on a special panel that developed the proposal. "And yet they're the ones that have to vote on it."
Although Census figures indicate an ideal House district would have 3,089 people, critics argue that the current plan would allow some districts to get thousands more than that.
Of the 400 House seats, about three dozen are at issue, including Democratic Leader Peter Burling's.
Burling, who represents Cornish and Plainfield, requested the committee to consider using a computer software program to determine how to revise the seats. He says it would help remove politics from the process.
"It isn't about being a Republican; it isn't about being a Democrat," he said. "It's about the voting rights of the people of New Hampshire."
Burling said the districts should be distributed fairly so that all representatives and their constituents have equal voting power.
Others argued it would be impossible to achieve.
"When you consider all of the variables, there is no such thing as a perfect district," said Rep. David Scanlan, a Republican from Canaan.
Auburn Republican Donald Stritch, who led the panel, said the new boundaries must account for rural areas growing faster than cities during the decade, and southern New Hampshire growing more than northern New Hampshire.
Of the state's 13 cities, eight lose representatives because of population shifts, he said.
A GOP plan to redraw state Senate district boundaries would mean four incumbent senators would compete for two seats in the next election.
Republican Party Chairman John Dowd offered the plan Thursday night at a special Senate panel's last public hearing on the issue before issuing its recommendation Jan. 4. Republicans hold a 13-11 edge over Democrats in the Senate.
Senate Democrats immediately complained Dowd's plan was too partisan.
But Dowd insisted his plan would be a big improvement because it would more evenly distribute constituents among the 24 seats.
Census figures indicate an ideal Senate district would have about 51,500 people.
Currently, districts vary in population by as much as 16,000 people, Dowd said. He said his plan would reduce the difference to a maximum of about 6,000 people from district to district.
The plan would also boost Nashua's delegation from two senators to three.
"This plan is based on conversations I've had with activists around the state but if it has a name, it's the Dowd plan. This comes from no one else," Dowd said during a 10th and final public hearing before the Senate Redistricting Committee.
Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, a Democrat from Manchester, accused Dowd of trying to guarantee the GOP's slim edge would grow to at least 16-8.
Senate Democrats, however, have Gov. Jeanne Shaheen as their backstop.
Should Shaheen veto a plan such as Dowd's, Democrats can block an override.
Dowd's plan would force D'Allesandro to run against nine-term incumbent Sheila Roberge, a Republican from Bedford, and would leave D'Allesandro with only his home ward out of his current district.
"How would anyone feel whose district has been 90 percent taken away from him?" D'Allesandro said. "Dowd didn't consult the D'Allesandro family before coming up with this, that's for sure."
Roberge left without offering comment on the plan.
The two other incumbents who would face off against each other in a Democratic primary next year would be Sens. Katie Wheeler of Durham and Burt Cohen of New Castle.
In addition to other shuffling, the proposal would create three districts without incumbents: one anchored by Derry, another by Dover and Somersworth, and the new Nashua-area district.
That district would combine Nashua Wards 5 and 9 on the west side with Milford, Hollis, Brookline, Wilton, Greenville and Mason.
Sen. Jack Barnes, a Republican from Raymond, chairman of the Redistricting Committee, said the panel will submit a final report to Senate President Arthur Klemm, a Republican from Windham, on Jan. 4 and present it to the Senate Internal Affairs Committee on Jan. 8.
The goal is to have a plan pass the Senate on Jan. 24, Barnes added.
As the state's politicians redraw New Hampshire's political map, voters are being asked what shape it should take.
But while the Senate Republicans in charge of reworking Senate districts say they chose a process that will reflect residents' views, some Senate Democrats consider the hearings scheduled over the next two weeks a farce, according to Democratic Sen. Sylvia Larsen of Concord.
The hearings won't give people a chance to see proposed maps, she said. They won't give voters an opportunity to comment on a detailed plan. All the public hearings will do, Larsen said, is give Senate Republicans the right to create a plan that gives them more political power, and to say they allowed public comment on it.
"I fear there are partisan games going on behind the scenes, and the public ought to be aware of it," Larsen said. "I think the public ought to go and demand to see some maps and not be led down the garden path of false public hearings."
Once the maps have been created, Larsen said, it would be fair to hold a second set of public hearings on them.
Asked what Senate Republicans thought of those concerns, Republican Sen. Jack Barnes of Raymond said asking voters how boundaries should change before a map is created will give them more control over the process, not less. Their input will be included in the final result, he said.
The Democrats' preferred method was used by Republican leaders when they last redrew the state's political boundaries, 10 years ago. But Republican leaders thought this new method was better, Barnes said.
"Seeing we didn't do that, I guess you see where I'm coming from," said Barnes, when asked about Democrats' claims that maps should come first. "We're out there to listen to what people have to say."
A report by the Senate's redistricting committee, of which Barnes is chairman, is due on the Senate president's desk by Feb. 4.
Every 10 years, lawmakers must redraw the borders of the state's House and Senate districts to adjust for population growth and decline, and ideally make each district contain an equal number of people. This time, that "ideal" number is the state's population of 1,235,786 people divided by the 24 Senate districts, for a number of 51,491 people per district.
Population changes over the past decade have put some districts dramatically out of whack with that ideal; Republican Sen. Sheila Roberge of Bedford must shed nearly 9,000 current voters while Republican Sen. Harold Burns of Whitefield must accept more than 7,000 new ones, according to a recent Senate study.
Although one past criteria of redistricting says that "no District be deliberately drawn to protect or to defeat an incumbent Senator," political turf battles are common, even within a party.
The boundaries of Burns's district, for instance, must be drawn farther south to include more populous areas and additional voters in his territory, which now encompasses all of Coos County.
But voters in Coos are known to be touchy about including parts of Grafton and Carroll counties in their realm. Include parts of southerly counties, the thinking goes, and soon Coos - with all its poverty, isolation and economic frailty- will be represented by a flatlander.
Take voters from Grafton and Carroll, and districts there may have to be redrawn to the south as well to maintain the proper number of voters. In the process, entire towns that traditionally vote Republican or Democrat can be drawn into or cast out of a district.
"It's that cascading effect - as one guy steals from you, you get to steal from your neighbors," said Senate adviser Jay Flanders, who organizes the Senate's redistricting process.
"The impact may be felt in a Senate district two or three away from that move," he said.
Changing the placement of particular towns can change the complexion of voters in a given district, and either threaten or reinforce an incumbent's hold on power.
That's where senators' political influence comes into play. Given a choice between taking the needed votes from an influential, trusted ally or a shaky, unpredictable opportunist, political observers say, Senate leaders have been known to reward loyalty and power, especially within their own party.
But if they go too far, the governor could nix the whole plan, Larsen pointed out.
"I assume they know the governor has veto power over an unfair and highly partisan drawing of districts in the state," she said.
Lurking in a closet off the Senate offices are U.S. Census maps, the harbingers of an issue so important, so divisive, so emotional and so arcane that it may well twist lawmakers into knots, paralyze intelligent debate and overshadow every other bill in the Legislature.
Every 10 years, the Legislature has to decide how to redraw the boundaries of House, Senate and congressional districts to compensate for the population growth and decline of various regions. A fast-growing district, for instance, may lose a populous town to another district with fewer people. Or a district with fewer voters than its neighboring districts may "grow," its borders creeping into their territory.
This is one of those years.
The maps don't have any population numbers on them yet - that won't happen until after the new census figures come out later this month. And even though the five bills that will reshape the state's political map have been filed, they likely won't be voted on until next session.
But Senate and House aides have taken the first few steps to begin the process of redistricting, which in past years has had Democrats and Republicans battling to shift boundaries in their favor - arguing, for instance, that a Democratic-leaning town should be included in a particular "swing" district.
This year, several districts will change shape, but Senate Republicans' one-vote majority means the new map will look much like the current one, according to Senate aide Jay Flanders.
"I don't think it's going to be a one-sided map," said Flanders, who is in charge of redistricting for the Senate leadership. "If you draw a map that's obviously politically slanted, then you're asking to be challenged in court, and I don't think that's in anyone's interest."
The new map, Flanders said, will likely be one supported by the Republican majority, although Democrats may come up with their own version - as may special-interest groups or members of the public. Sometime next year, the map that wins a majority of votes will be sent to the governor to accept or reject.
The parties will jockey for position at all levels of office, but shifting demographics will become most important to senators, who could gain or lose entire towns.
Republican Sen. Sheila Roberge of Bedford will likely have to give up a town in her burgeoning district, Flanders said. So may Sen. Gary Francoeur of Hudson, according to other State House sources. And Democratic Sen. George Disnard of Claremont will probably have to "grow" into the territories of his neighboring districts, forcing them to shift their borders to maintain the same number of voters.
Even if the debate over the new map doesn't turn political, Flanders said, it's likely to become emotional.
"When all is said and done, I guarantee there will be some senators who won't be happy," Flanders said. "They get very territorial about these towns because they get used to representing the people. . . . It can be very traumatic."
A town selectman wants lawmakers to bring Whitingham back into the Windham County fold for purposes of representation in the state Senate -- or create a new Senate district. Keith Bronson's opportunity for change may come with legislative redistricting this year. During the last redistricting, Whitingham was switched to the Bennington County senate district to make that and the Windham district more equal in population.
Bronson said he thinks the town may have been a victim of gerrymandering -- changing district boundaries to give one party a chance of winning more legislative seats. He cited the term's 19th-century origin. But Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, said there was no funny stuff going on 10 years ago when the decision was originally made to move Whitingham to the Bennington County Senate district.
"Reapportionment happens every 10 years. When it happened last and Whitingham was put in Bennington County, it was before my time here," Shumlin said. "The problem is that the constitution requires, and Congress has mandated, that representation reflect population base. A decade ago, they had to remove someone (Whitingham) from Windham County and add someone to Bennington County because Windham County had too many people and Bennington too few."
"This is going to be reviewed this year," Shumlin added. "I would love to see them reunited with the county. We need to see the census numbers." While legislators wait for census numbers to come back to determine the fate of the town, Bronson said there is now a move by local officials to possibly create a new Senate district for those running along the mountains.
"We've written a letter to our representative (Bob Rusten) and he said he is going to look into it to see what he could do. Our thought is to create a Senate district with the towns on Route 100 who run up the mountain," Bronson said. "The senators in the Brattleboro area, as well as in Bennington, are a little bit out of touch with what goes on up here in the mountains."
How districts will change will depend in part on how each party fares on Election Day. But the state's southern tier, where most of the population growth was during the 1990s, is certain to gain. "I would expect to see the southern end of the state get more representatives, maybe another Senate seat or two," said Wayne MacDonald of Londonderry, Republican chairman for Rockingham County.
Those in control of the Senate and House can be expected to redraw districts in subtle, but influential, ways, activists say. "This is a critical election," said Kathleen Sullivan, state Democratic chairwoman. "We need to take back the Senate majority and we need to cut into the Republican count in the House. "Because if we don't do that, then we've got a real problem for the Democratic Party in New Hampshire in the future because the Republicans will do what the Republicans have always done: cut up the districts to benefit the Republican Party."
MacDonald agrees the stakes are high. "It's a big deal, especially if the government remains divided," he said. "If the Senate remains Democratic, it could do a great deal to lock in that Democratic majority." Republicans control the House, but the 24 Senate seats are divided evenly. New Hampshire's population is believed to have grown from just over 1.1 million in the 1990 census to about 1.2 million last year, according to the Office of State Planning.
Traditionally the House and Senate redistrict themselves. They also reshape Executive Council and congressional districts. Any revisions won't take effect until the 2002 election. MacDonald expects redistricting to be "very partisan," as in the past. After the 1980 census, Democratic Gov. Hugh Gallen vetoed two Senate redistricting bills as favoring Republicans.
The coming impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brock and school funding have kept the spotlight off redistricting. "People aren't even talking about that and that's a big thing," said Sen. Arthur Klemm, a Windham Republican. "A lot of people don't even realize we've got redistricting . . . (but) it could potentially affect who their representatives and who their senators are."