Redistricting in a Swing State: N.H.'s Party Politics

Apr 20, 2016

With every census, states have the chance to re-draw political boundaries based on population changes.  Usually, the legislature controls the process, giving the party in power much greater influence. We're examining how this has affected New Hampshire's voting districts, the balance of power at the Statehouse, and other approaches taken elsewhere.

GUESTS:

  • Dan Barrick, senior policy and politics editor at New Hampshire Public Radio.
  • Rob Boatright, associate professor of political science at Clark University. He teaches courses on American political behavior, political parties, campaigns and elections.

Callouts:

  • Nick Stephanopoulos, assistant professor at University of Chicago Law School.
  • Peter Bragdon, former Senate president and Republican from Milford. He was in the state Senate at the last redistricting.

Read the related NHPR story, How a Few Lines on a Map Hold So Much Power in N.H. Politics: Here’s a confusing reality about New Hampshire politics today. Democrats are having success like never before, scoring wins that would have been impossible just two decades ago. But despite that shift, there’s one place where Republicans still have a leg up on Election Day: the Legislature.

And NHPR's analysis of the last redistricting cycles of New Hampshire's Senate districts, As New Hampshire Shifts to a Swing State, Why Do Legislative Lines Still Favor Republicans?: The classic gerrymandered map you learned about in high school civics class is full of oddly-shaped legislative districts, drawn with obvious intent to boost one party. But in New Hampshire, that’s rarely the case: It’s very hard to see, just by looking at the election maps, which districts might help or hurt a certain party’s chances.

This chart details the "efficiency gap" in New Hampshire's state Senate elections over the past 20 years. A positive efficiency gap indicates an election map that favors Republicans -- and the bigger the number, the bigger that advantage. Based on this measure, in 8 of the past 11 elections, Republicans have enjoyed a disproportionate number of Senate seats compared to actual vote tallies. In two years, the math swung in the Democrats' direction, and one year was a wash for both parties.