I felt the need to respond to a letter dated April 27 by Kathleen Eames of Charlestown regarding redistricting because it contained so many errors. As background, you should know that we have very tight constraints on what we are allowed to do when redistricting. It was generally agreed that Sullivan County was the most challenging. We are required to be within 10% total deviation of “perfect population” for the state plan. This means that when you divide the total state population by 400 (the number of Representatives), you need to be within roughly 5% over or under in each county. We can not cross county lines because the Representatives from a county also comprise the County Delegation. Districts must also be contiguous.
Sullivan County had two large changes in this census that made keeping the old districts impossible. Claremont lost significant population in one ward, and Grantham gained significant population. These two large items put the current districts out of compliance with the federal one man one vote standard. Adjusting for this affected very other district in the county.
Ms. Eames stated that the data used was not made publicly available. Census data is publicly available. If she is talking about some other data, you should know that House Democrats submitted the plan for Sullivan County. We simply accepted it. Questions as to its creation should go to members of that party. Having said that, census data and information regarding our redistricting process is, and has been, available at the House Special Committee on Redistricting Website or http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committee_websites/Redistricting_2021/default.aspx
Article 11 of the NH Constitution does not require that “each town with the minimum population to have its own representative”. Part 2 Article 11 states “When the population of any town or ward, according to the last federal census, is within a reasonable deviation from the ideal population for one or more representative seats, the town or ward shall have its own district of one or more representative seats. The apportionment shall not deny any other town or ward membership in one non-floterial representative district.” We are, however, not permitted to violate federal law to accomplish this. The plan that I submitted would have kept Claremont as it is today, and Charlestown would have still had its own Representative. Unfortunately, deviating that far from the right population number put the state plan over 10%. It was decided to not proceed with a plan likely to be challenged in state and/or federal court. The NH Supreme Court addressed this issue in 2012 making it clear that properly proportioned districts took priority over the 2006 amendment Ms. Eames referenced. It also stated that being under 10% deviation was critical. You can read it yourself at https://www.courts.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt471/files/documents/2021-08/2012061redistricting.pdf
In closing, realize that House Democrats submitted the plans for Sullivan County Representatives and Sullivan County Commissioners. Republicans accepted those plans over the Republican plans. It is a bit disingenuous for a political party official to try to cry partisan foul now. Sulivan County’s plan was truly bipartisan.
Rep. Steven Smith, Charlestown, Deputy Speaker of the NH House
Vice Chair, House Special Committee on Redistricting