ON AUG. 9, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed House Bill 706-FN-A, which intended to establish an independent redistricting commission for New Hampshire.
Distrustful of allowing the peoples’ elected representatives to evermore redistrict, Democrat majorities in the House and Senate chose to pass the responsibility for redistricting the state to a commission comprised of one-third hyper-partisan members chosen by elected Democrats, one-third hyper-partisan members chosen by elected Republicans and a third group comprised ostensibly of apolitical “independents:” unicorns who would be selected by the hyper-partisan political members of the commission through a secret process not subject to review through New Hampshire’s right-to-know law.
The vetoed bill contains an appalling conglomerate of foolish ideas and popular claptrap that’s oblivious to reality, undefinable statutory new-speak and mind-boggling process provisions prospectively attractive to disruptive agitators, to be exploited.
Crazily, the bill actually invites court challenges.
Failure of the commission and the Legislature to agree on the final plan would send the unresolved redistricting hodgepodge to the Supreme Court for resolution. Remember our 2002 redistricting mess? The court would then get to replicate its unconstitutional 2002 redistricting-resolution fiasco.
With the court plan in place, the bill amazingly provides that in the following biennium, a disgruntled Legislature could proceed to re-redistrict the state as it always had but this time without “help” from a “second” independent redistricting commission.
There’s a reason why New Hampshire’s 400-member House of Representatives has as many members as it does.
There’s a reason why the House has been given the exclusive authority to judge the returns, elections and qualifications of its members.
There’s a reason why the House has been given the power to configure each elective district for state and federal offices except for state Senate districts.
There’s a reason why House Districts must be as small as feasible and why every redistricting effort must be made to create as many House districts as is numerically possible.
There’s a reason why the New Hampshire Senate is given the exclusive power to redistrict itself.
There’s a reason, despite recent aberrant examples to the contrary, why neither the governor nor the judiciary is given any constitutional authority to meddle in the configuring of elective districts.
There’s a reason why the Secretary of State is elected by members of the House and Senate without the interference of either the governor or the justices of the Supreme Court.
There’s a reason why the Secretary of State serves the Legislature and not the governor or the justices.
There’s a reason why the Secretary of State conducts elections absent executive and judicial interference.
Awful behavior exhibited by abusive, self-serving and greedy royal governors and royal justices meddling in the composition of colonial assemblies for their own financial benefit convinced the authors of our constitution that future governors, justices and powerful elites should never have the opportunity to interfere in the choices that the people might make in their selection of their representatives to the Legislature.
The fundamental legislative objective was to provide every town and ward with its own representative to the House of Representatives. Where towns were too small in population to have a representative of their own, those towns would be combined with other towns to create the next smallest district possible. The goal of maximizing representation of towns is what caused the creation of such a large legislative body, which dramatically reflects the state’s diverse interests.
Because it’s the most representative legislative chamber, Part II, Article 9, exclusively empowers the House with apportioning all elective offices except Senate seats. Because the Senate is a check upon the House, separation of powers requires that the Senate redistrict itself.
Neither the governor nor the judiciary was given authority to meddle in the apportionment of elective offices. This is because neither the governor nor the justices should be permitted to manipulate the composition of the legislative bodies that could potentially impeach and convict them.
In 2002, the governor vetoed House and Senate redistricting plans because they did not serve her political agenda. The redistricting dispute then found its way to the state Supreme Court for resolution. The justices developed a redistricting scheme that, in part, assured the defeat of certain representatives in the House who had been lobbying for judicial reform.
The 2002 redistricting fiasco demonstrated why governors and justices should forever be enjoined from interfering with the right of the people to determine in what way they should be represented.
Governor Sununu prevented radical New Hampshire Democrats from trashing representative government in New Hampshire. Thank him when you can.