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June 04. 2012 9:42PM

State’s legislative redistricting plan clears federal review hurdle

CONCORD — The U.S. Department of Justice has signed off on the state’s legislative redistricting plan, affirming its compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The department “does not interpose any objection” to the redistricting plan for the state House and Senate, according to a letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez.

State Attorney General Michael Delaney filed the determination with the state Supreme Court on Monday, clearing the way for the controversial redistricting plan to be put in place for this year’s elections.

The House redistricting plan still faces legal challenges from Manchester, Concord and other towns, and the justice department finding does not affect these cases, although a judge recently rejected an injunction the municipalities sought against the plan.

New Hampshire is the only Northern state on a list that includes Alabama, Mississippi and 13 others, that is subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was intended to crack down on discriminatory voting practices that barred or hindered voting by African-Americans or other minorities.

New Hampshire was caught up in the Voting Rights Act in the 1968 presidential election when 10 small communities were identified as having fewer than 50 percent or less of their adults voting in a presidential election, which violated the act. The towns are Rindge, Millsfield, Pinkham’s Grant, Stewartstown, Stratford, Benton, Antrim, Boscawen, Newington and Unity.

The justice department letter does not respond to a request by state officials to have New Hampshire removed from the list of states required to get “pre-clearance” for voting policy changes.

House Speaker William O’Brien said the justice department finding shows that the redistricting plan was carefully conceived. “This is just one more piece of evidence that the House redistricting plan is appropriate to meet these goals while doubling the number of districts across the state,” he said in a statement.


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