Redistricting commission plan vetoed by N.H. governor
Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed legislation that would have created an independent commission to draw New Hampshire's electoral boundaries.
A first principle of the democracy reform movement is that the job of electoral mapmaking must be taken out of the hands of the politicians running each state, because whether they're Republicans or Democrats their top priority will be gerrymandering the districts to perpetuate their own partisan advantage.
But the Republican governor, in the veto message released Friday, said the state Constitution gives elected officials — state legislators and the governor — the authority to draw lines for congressional districts, state legislative districts and members of the governor's executive council.
"The members of the commission proposed in House Bill 706 would be unelected and unaccountable to the voters," Sununu wrote.
His veto message also cited the fact that gerrymandering issues are extremely rare in New Hampshire — which has just two U.S. House seats to fill but also a whopping 400 seats in the state House — and that an unnamed outside group pushing for the legislation had as its mission to "favorably position Democrats for the redistricting process."
That phrase is used by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in one of its filings with the IRS. The advocacy group, formed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and supported by former President Barack Obama, believes the GOP has succeeded in recent years in skewing the map-drawing process to its favor and seeks reforms that give Democrats a fair chance.
Holder called Sununu's veto "completely unacceptable" and, in a statement, said he "has truly revealed himself to be a captive of the special interests who fear the will of the people."
The legislation passed the solidly Democratic state House with the support of 16 Republicans, about 10 percent of the GOP members, but in the narrowly Democratic Senate the vote followed party lines.
The bill called for creating a commission comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans and five independent citizens.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that federal courts have no role in determining the excesses of partisan gerrymandering but said the states were free to set their own rules or procedures to curb the practice.
In most states, the new boundaries are drawn every 10 years, after the census, through enactment of legislation. Fourteen states have put the process in the hands of commissions, with varying degrees of autonomy. The New Hampshire commission would have had the sole power to create the boundaries, although the maps could have been challenged in court.
In July, Sununu also vetoed four election transparency bills.
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Molineaux and Nevins are co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of 100 democracy strengthening organizations. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
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Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.
The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.
Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.
With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.