Governor vetoes NH House redistricting plan – Sunapee loses town-district seat

This is the first of three postings about the House redistricting plan. A statement from Governor Lynch on his veto and an article about the redistricting plan by State Representative Spec Bowers, Sunapee, follows.

On Friday Governor John Lynch vetoed the redistricting plan for the New Hampshire House, while signing into law the redistricting plan for the Senate.

In explaining the veto, Governor Lynch said, “The right to vote is central to our democratic government. But that right is meaningless unless equal representation is assured when citizens vote. I am vetoing HB 592 because it violates the constitutional principle for equal representation and local representation; it is inconsistent in its treatment of similarly situated towns and wards, and it unnecessarily changes the boundaries of existing districts.”

“Another significant flaw with the House-approved redistricting plan is that it unnecessarily breaks-up cities and wards,” said Lynch. “It denies a total of 62 New Hampshire towns and wards their own seats in the House.”

The 2010 census reports the New Hampshire population is 1,316,470.

“A straight division into 400 districts yields an ideal population per district of 3,291. Under federal and state law, towns and wards that equal or are within 5 percent of this ideal population are entitled to their own representative,” said Lynch.

See the governor’s statement.

Sunapee loses town-district status

Redistricting changes the map for Sunapee. In the House-approved plan, Sunapee loses its sole representative. Instead, Sunapee has two representatives from two different districts.

The plan combines Sunapee and Croydon forming Sullivan County District 2, and it puts Sunapee into a eight-town floterial district, District 9, with Cornish, Croydon, Grantham, Newport, Plainfield, Springfield and Unity.

Sunapee, with a population of 3365 listed by the 2010 census, is “slightly over the requirements for a full district,” said Richard Leone, Sunapee, a former state representative.

Leone questions the redistricting plan, and he is concerned about its impact on Sunapee.

“Now that Sunapee has maintained the requirement for a full district for 10 years, doesn’t it seem rather odd that it no longer has that distinction or voice it sorely needs,” Leone said.

While acknowledging that the redistricting is not an easy task, Leone is not convinced that Sunapee had to lose its town-district status.

Leone said the process and the plan appear to be driven by ideology and the difference between the state’s two major political parties.

“We should get a better understanding of all this as time goes on,” Leone added.

State Representative Spec Bowers (R-Sunapee), commenting on the plan, said, “Statewide we have triple the number of single-town districts. Sadly, Sunapee is one of the very few exceptions to this fact.”

Sunapee was combined with “much smaller Croydon” because of the county’s geography and population, Bowers said.

“Sunapee, Newport, and Claremont all deserve to have their own districts. But if we gave all three their own districts, the five northern towns would violate the one-man-one vote rule, as also would the seven southern towns.”

“Like many towns, and all towns in Sullivan county, Sunapee will now elect a state rep in two separate districts,” Bowers explained. “On our ballots we have always had two separate districts for electing county commissioners.”

Bowers, a member of the redistricting committee, said he developed two different plans for the county, but “I had to admit that the adopted plan came closer to the Constitutional ideal than my plans.”

As for the Governor’s veto, Bowers says he will vote to override.

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