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Steve Winter
State Representative District 3


January  14, 2012
"The Truth About Redistricting"

Steven Winter represents the towns of Newbury and Sutton, Merrimack District 3, in the NH House of Representatives.

Representative Winter is a member of the House Executive Department & Administration  Committee, The Special Committee on Public Employee Pension Reform and the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR).

 

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so." 
– President Ronald Reagan


Over this past year, I have intentionally refrained from commenting on the weekly columns in The Intertown Record newspaper written by my Democratic colleague from New London. But his recent column regarding the House Redistricting Committee was so over the top with misinformation that it begs for rebuttal.

My friend claims that the Republicans "developed a plan in private with no public input behind a smokescreen of meaningless meetings." Neither he nor I were on the committee but I attended a number of those public meetings. I did not find them "meaningless". Many people spoke and many suggestions were recorded. Hearings were also held in each county to solicit input. Those hearings gave rise to the plans that began to come forward.

He claims that the Republicans had a "secret" plan for redistricting. Poppycock! At the meetings I attended it was evident that the redistricting plan was evolutionary. It was constantly being updated with new information. Each meeting I attended had inputs from many sources, both inside and outside government.

Two committee members especially, Reps. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) and Spec Bowers (R-Sunapee) had similar but competing plans. Each saw the wisdom of particular parts of the puzzle in the other’s plan and readily acceded to them. They were later joined by Rep. Seth Cohn (R-Canterbury) who, although not a committee member, pointed out some problems. He was challenged to create a better solution to those problems and he "took the bait." Once he got into it, he found other solutions and worked diligently to add his expertise to the final piece.

My New London colleague next argued that the committee ignored the 2006 amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution which enabled towns with sufficient population to have their own representative district. The 2006 amendment was not ignored. It was trumped by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, requiring "one man, one vote." The committee had to be certain that each district had no more than a 10% variation (+5% to -5%) from the ideal population of 3291. If we were outside that margin, we would probably wind up in federal court.

Nevertheless, the committee was able to construct 86 single-member districts where we previously had less than 30. They were also able to create 200 smaller districts where previously we had only 103 larger districts. The intent of the 2006 amendment was accommodated as far as it was possible considering the federal constraints.

Finally, why was the final plan presented only 24 hours before the final hearing? The answer is simply a matter of time. Redistricting has been compared to a house of cards. If one district is changed, it could impact as many as 15 other districts. Last minute improvements were incorporated right up to the deadline set to prepare for the hearing.

Finally, political considerations were overwhelmed by the state and federal constitutions and the process was as open as humanly possible.

 

Steve Winter, Representative, Merrimack District 3
Newbury and Sutton, New Hampshire 

Telephone:  603-271- 3125 and 271-3319
Email: libertynh@myfairpoint.net


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