New Hampshire judge rejects Democrats’ redistricting challenge

“Because the newly-drawn districts meet those express requirements, the court must decline to consider the plaintiffs’ challenge to the constitutionality of the districts based on claims of excessive political gerrymandering as such claims present non-justiciable political questions,” Colburn wrote in the eight-page ruling.

By Christian Wade | The Center Square

A New Hampshire judge has tossed out a lawsuit by Democrats that challenged the state’s newly drawn legislative boundaries.

A lawsuit filed in May on behalf of several Democratic voters asked the court to reject maps for the 24 Senate districts and five Executive Council districts that were approved by the House and Senate and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed legislation authorizing the changes.

The plaintiffs, who included former Democratic House Speaker Terie Norelli, argued the new boundaries were created with “impermissible partisan intent — specifically, to prevent Democratic voters from fairly and equally participating in the political process.” They said it violates the state’s constitution.

But Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn disagreed, ruling that the Legislature has broad authority to redraw the boundaries after finding no violations of the state’s redistricting laws.

“Because the newly-drawn districts meet those express requirements, the court must decline to consider the plaintiffs’ challenge to the constitutionality of the districts based on claims of excessive political gerrymandering as such claims present non-justiciable political questions,” Colburn wrote in the eight-page ruling.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs argued that the Senate maps include 16 districts that overwhelmingly tilt Republican and eight that would favor Democrats. The Executive Council seats include four districts that favor Republicans and packs Democrats into a sprawling district that includes Keene and Concord, the plaintiffs alleged.

The U.S. Constitution requires states to draw new congressional district lines every 10 years, following the census, to account for changes in population. States also use those numbers to draw maps for their federal and state legislative districts.

In New Hampshire, Republicans who took control of the House and Senate in the 2020 elections drew the maps amid opposition from Democrats and good government groups.

A separate lawsuit filed against the state challenged proposed maps for New Hampshire’s two U.S. House districts, which Democrats and good government groups have accused Republicans of “gerrymandering” in their favor.

Republican lawmakers argued the changes would make the House districts more competitive by updating the political boundaries, which haven’t changed in decades.

In June, the New Hampshire Supreme Court set new congressional maps drawn by a special master after Sununu and lawmakers were unable to agree on a final redistricting plan.

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