Court Strikes Down Republican Gerrymandered Maps For 2022 Election

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The New Hampshire state Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by Republican legislative officials in the state to stop the court from handling the preparation of the state’s next Congressional district map, according to voting rights attorney Marc Elias. The court has now appointed Professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford Law as a so-called special master, setting him up to oversee the selection of district lines as the process moves forward.

“The special master shall prepare and issue to the court, no earlier than May 27, 2022, a report and a recommended congressional redistricting plan for New Hampshire pursuant to the criteria set forth in our opinion and this order,” the court said, although they repeatedly noted that there remains an opportunity for New Hampshire leaders to come to an agreement on a new Congressional district map for the state. The litigation leading to the court essentially tentatively taking over the redistricting process (and appointing Persily) was filed in the context of the failure by legislative leaders and New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu to come to an agreement about redistricting. New Hampshire, a relatively small state, has just two Congressional districts, and a legislature-backed plan Sununu rejected made one of those districts more Republican-leaning. The other district became more Democratic-leaning.

Previously, the district that would have become more solidly Republican if the legislature-backed plan was put into effect has been represented by individuals of both major political parties throughout recent years. Democrats have represented the state’s other district since 2012, suggesting that most of the newly present electoral success under the legislature-backed map was set to go to Republicans. “The proposed Congressional redistricting map is not in the best interest of New Hampshire and I will veto it as soon as it reaches my desk… The citizens of this state are counting on us to do better,” Sununu said. According to the state Supreme Court, “The special master shall not consider political data or partisan factors, such as party registration statistics, prior election results, or future election prospects.” Proposed configurations for the state’s Congressional map can be submitted until the afternoon of May 16, and by a point earlier in the afternoon two days later, on the 18th, responses to proposals can be filed.

The following day, on May 19, an in-person hearing involving the special master will be held at which those behind particular plans can make their case — and those opposed to particular proposals can make theirs. “Following the hearing, the special master shall select a proposed redistricting plan — or shall formulate one on his own — that he recommends for adoption by the court,” the state court says. Elsewhere in the country, high-profile redistricting fights are playing out involving the Congressional district configurations to be used in forthcoming elections in, among other states, Kansas and Florida. In the latter state, a judge recently rejected a plan from Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that would have spread voters from a northern district currently represented by Democrat Al Lawson, who is Black, across four new districts. That case isn’t concluded yet, though — officials prepared to appeal.