Enumeration shall be made … within every subsequent Term of ten Years
– Part II, Article 9 of the NH Constitution
One bill that is of great interest to the all state elected officials in the coming year is the reapportionment of the elective districts, commonly called redistricting. Most of the Senate, House, and Executive Council districts will be redistricted to account for population changes.
I have been asked by constituents why we need to go through this drill every 10 years. The answer is, as you can see above, that reapportionment is required by both the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions in order to maintain the concept of "one man, one vote." One man, one vote means that all votes should carry approximately the same weight for every individual. For instance, if one voting district doubled in size while another had no growth that would mean that the voters in the larger district would have their voting power diluted by 50% if we did not reapportion.
Most of the districts in New Hampshire will need to be reapportioned in this first legislative session following the U.S. census due to population changes. Although such reapportionment is done at the state level, the federal government imposes certain constraints on the process, allowing only a small deviation in reaching the desired numbers. The NH Constitution also places even more constraints such as no town, ward or place shall be divided nor the boundaries thereof altered. Although towns may be combined to get to the desired number, each of the towns must be contiguous. And no combination of towns may cross county lines.
How is the number of voters in each district determined? That is the easy part. The state’s 2010 population as determined by the U.S. Census is 1,316,470, which exceeds the 2000 census by more than 80,000. For the New Hampshire House, that number is divided by 400, the number of House districts. That results in an average NH House member representing 3291 constituents. That number is 202 constituents more than in 2000.
If one town registers a population within 5% of 3291, they will have a district of one representative for that one town. If they have less, the committee will look for a contiguous town that will add to the first town to get two towns to equal a population within 5% of the goal.
Newbury had a perfect fit with Sutton in 2000 and was awarded one representative for the two towns. New London was too large and had to pick up additional small towns, Wilmot and Danbury. That district was awarded two representatives in 2000.
Next week we will explore some possible local district changes and explain what "floterial" districts are.
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