State Watch

GOP governor vetoes New Hampshire bill to create independent redistricting commission

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have created an independent commission to draw the state’s legislative, congressional and Executive Council district maps following the 2020 elections. 

In his veto, Sununu asserted that issues related to partisan gerrymandering were “extremely rare” in New Hampshire and that an independent commission would run counter to the ideas stated in the state’s constitution. 

{mosads}”The members of the commission proposed by House Bill 706 would be unelected and unaccountable to the voters,” he said in a letter announcing his veto on Friday. “Legislators should not abrogate their responsibility to the voters and delegate authority to an unelected and unaccountable commission selected by the political party bosses.”

If passed, the bill would have created a commission, consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans and five unaffiliated citizens, to draw the state’s voting maps. Lawmakers would be removed from the process of drawing the maps, but would be allowed to vote to approve them, The New Hampshire Union Leader reported

The newspaper noted that the 15-member commission would have come from a pool of applicants submitted to the secretary of state. The rules would have forbid any individual who was an elected official or lobbyist in the past 10 years to be a part of the body. 

The state’s House and Senate passed the legislation earlier this year, but some Republicans had become outspoken opponents of the legislation. 

State Rep. Marjorie Smith (D), who worked with the nonpartisan Brennan Center to create the proposal, denounced Sununu’s veto, saying that the GOP governor should be “ashamed” of himself. 

“Only the House minority leader and Governor Sununu worked to keep their party’s best interest above the best interest of Granite Staters. Today the governor chose to ignore the bipartisan action of the Legislature and deny voters the right to choose whom they would like to vote for, and he should be ashamed of himself for doing so,” Smith said, The Union Leader reported. 

Smith told the newspaper that the New Hampshire legislature would have become the first state in the U.S. to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission had Sununu signed the proposal into law. Voter referendums led to the independent commissions in eight other states. 

Former Attorney General Eric Holder also condemned Sununu’s rationale for vetoing the legislation, calling it “simply bogus.”

“His real motive: to ignore the will of the people and maintain power,” Holder, an outspoken advocate for redistricting reform, said on Twitter. “People of NH- remember who stood for YOU when it’s time for re-election.”

Redistricting, which occurs every 10 years after the census is performed, has emerged as a prominent issue in recent years in wake of cases related to maps that were created with the alleged purpose to favor one political party over the other. 

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal judiciary could not resolve matters related to partisan gerrymandering. 

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