Thu January 19, 2012
Spotlight on the Proposed House Districts
The New Hampshire House has passed its redistricting plan. Below are three maps to help you see what's proposed and how it's different from today's voting districts.
- The first map shows the proposed House districts, including the "floaterials" which appear as green overlays on the map
- The second is the proposed districts without the floterials, colored by the number of representatives which would be elected from each district.
- The third is the previous districts, color coded in the same way.
What are Floterials?
Every 3,200 people in New Hampshire merit a representative, but it would be impossible to create 400 perfect districts that follow logical borders like town lines. So inevitably, there are voters left over after the most logical districts have been created. Floterials are a way to give the left-over population their representation, by cobbling together districts out of the uneven remainders of the other districts.
This creates an interesting choice for candidates. Any politician from a town that is inside a floterial who wants to run for a House seat has to decide which seat he or she wants to run for: the floating district or the standard one.
The New Map
The Republican leadership went into the redistricting process with the goal of creating as many single-town districts as mathematically possible. That was a job that turned out to be more complicated than they bargained for, but the result is a map with nearly twice as many districts, many of them single town districts.
Democratic critics of the map say that even more single town districts could have been achieved, but their proposal to do so rests on a controversial plan that involves something called weighted voting. The Democrats' plan was soundly defeated on the house floor.
Other criticisms center around districts that combine city wards with neighboring towns, like a district that combines Hopkinton with Concord Ward 5 or representatives who feel that their district wasn't given a fair shake, like Pelham and Hudson that were combined to form an 11 representative district.
Certain democratic critics have vowed to bring the redistricting plan to court, which would set the stage for a repeat of the last round of redistricting, during which the question languished in the courts until a constitutional amendment was passed in 2006.
The senate will take up the map, where it is likely to pass, and then it will arrive on the governor's desk for a signature. The bill passed the House 205 votes to 86: a veto-proof majority. The plan is likely to wind up in court, but the outcome there is by no mean certain. The house leadership went to great pains to ensure that the plan would pass constitutional muster, and the claimants will have their work cut out for them to prove otherwise.