New Hampshire ordered to draw new congressional maps | New Hampshire
(The Center Square) – New Hampshire’s highest court is ordering the state to redraw new congressional district maps after ruling that a Republican-led redistricting plan was unconstitutional.
An order issued Thursday by the state Supreme Court, which sides with Democrats who have sued the state over proposed limits for the state’s two seats in the U.S. House, gives leaders of the State another three weeks to propose a new redistricting plan. If lawmakers and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu can’t agree on a new plan by June 1, the judges have said they will draw the cards.
“This court has both the power and the obligation to ensure that the next election is conducted according to an illegally valid congressional district plan,” the justices wrote in the 15-page decision. “As a result, we will take the necessary steps to formulate a district plan that complies with all applicable laws to protect the fundamental rights of New Hampshire voters.”
The court’s ruling notes that the state’s deadline to file its candidacy for Congress — which runs from June 1-10 — and a primary are approaching without a resolution to the impasse.
The justices said the court would use a “least change” approach to create new congressional districts if legislative leaders cannot agree to a constitutionally legal redistricting plan.
“Any congressional redistricting plan we may adopt will reflect any changes necessary to address constitutional deficiencies in existing congressional districts,” the justices wrote.
At issue are political maps, drawn by the state’s Republican majority, that would make the 1st Congressional District more Republican by moving several GOP-leaning communities into the district while the 2nd Congressional District would be slightly more Democratic by including several Democratic-leaning communities. Both House seats are currently held by Democrats.
Sununu, a Republican, has pledged to veto House and Senate-approved maps, saying districts don’t “pass the smell test” and proposing his own redistricting plan.
Democrats, led by former House Speaker Terie Norelli, filed a legal challenge against the plan, alleging it was unconstitutional and favored Republicans. The lawsuit asked the court to discard congressional maps and create new district boundaries ahead of the 2022 election.
Lawyers for the Republican legislative leaders argued in the Supreme Court that the New Hampshire Constitution gave them broad authority over the redistricting process.
But the judges disagreed with that argument, ruling that political maps would be illegal based on changes in the state’s population.
In a joint statement released after the court ruling, Senate Speaker Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, said they would convene a conference committee to “discuss of legislation to establish a redistricting plan for the two members of Congress. districts “based on population changes in the Federal Decennial Census”.
The leaders said the Republican-led committee “will work together on a new map allocating our congressional districts that is constitutional, fair and released in a timely manner to ensure the public has an opportunity to provide input.”
The US Constitution requires states to draw new congressional district lines every 10 years, after the census, to account for population changes. States also use these numbers to draw maps for their federal and state legislative districts.
Between 2010 and 2019, New Hampshire grew by about 4%, adding 57,600 new residents for a total population of 1,379,089, according to 2020 U.S. Census data.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court reiterated that the Legislative Assembly is not precluded from enacting a “legally valid congressional district plan” before the June 1 deadline to finalize the maps.