Freestaters helping to enfranchise towns and voters
- The following article is from the Concord Monitor, the newspaper that serves
as an organ of state government in New Hampshire. Interestingly, although
they emphasized the Republicans involved in the suit, and the Freestaters
working with the NHLRF, they didn't mention that the plaintiffs in the
lawsuit include a Democrat; or that one of the legal team, Bill O'Brien, is
a former state representative who helped draft the state constitutional
amendment; or that Democrats in the affected towns support redistricting
fully as much as Republicans do, since they are just as disenfranchised as
all other voters. Whatever. The important thing is that Freestaters are
becoming ever more active in important political actions in New Hampshire.
They're also increasingly allying with native and other Granite Staters to
fight off those who want New Hampshire to become a mini-Massachusetts, a
fight well worth joining. ---Tim Condon, member of the board of directors of
the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation (WWW.NHLRF.ORG).
Article published on May 06, 2008
Towns claim districts don't pass muster Suit seeks to redraw
By LAUREN R. DORGAN
May 06, 2008
Their Fair share?<http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080506/FRONTPAGE/805060306/0/ENTERTAINMENT05>
A half dozen towns joined a lawsuit against the state yesterday, claiming
that large, multi-town legislative districts disenfranchise their residents
and violate a constitutional amendment that passed in 2006. The petitioners,
backed by a new group, are asking a Merrimack County judge to hold off the
2008 elections until the state redraws its legislative districts.
The plaintiff towns include Weare and Loudon. Both towns claim, according to
the lawsuit, that their influence is diluted by sharing a district with a
larger town. They claim that every town of at least 3,089 residents deserves
its own representative, and at least 15 such towns in the state do not have
their own. According to the suit, Loudon has no representatives when it
ought to have one, and Weare shares a district with Goffstown, a town twice
The other litigants include five current or former state representatives,
all Republicans, including Neal Kurk, the Weare representative who sponsored
the 2006 constitutional amendment. The board of the newly formed group
behind the suit, the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation, includes
Republican and Free State Project activists, as well as former
representative Richard "Stretch" Kennedy, a Hopkinton Republican.
The lawsuit claims that the Legislature has had time and opportunity to
comply with the amendment but has failed to do so.
"That constitutional requirement perforce overrides any concerns relating to
convenience, familiarity or simplicity," the suit claims.
The change can't wait until 2012, when New Hampshire will likely go through
its usual once-a-decade redistricting process, said Paul Mirski, director of
the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation. Mirski, a former Republican state
representative from Enfield, lost his seat in the 2006 elections.
"The urgency is that people aren't going to get their representatives for
another four years if you do it that way," Mirski said. "It's like saying
you can't have free speech for the next four years. . . . It's as
fundamental as it gets."
He called town-by-town representation "the absolute root" of New Hampshire
government and the reason why the state's House of Representatives is so
unusually large. In small towns, he said, people are talking.
"It's not like taxes and the cost of gasoline, but it's up there," he said.
Deputy Attorney General Bud Fitch said yesterday that he had not yet seen
The constitutional amendment that passed in 2006 was aimed at alleviating
cases where a big town and a smaller one are combined into one district and
elect only representatives from the larger municipality, Fitch said.
The Supreme Court has held that the Legislature may redistrict once per
decade - a chance legislators used in 2004 to change the embattled
redistricting done by the court in 2002.
The question of how to balance the once-a-decade rule with an obligation to
follow a new constitutional amendment is unanswered, Fitch said.
"To my knowledge, the Supreme Court has not answered that question," he
Meanwhile, Fitch said, there's another wrinkle to how redistricting must be
done. Not only are towns required to get their own representatives wherever
possible, redistricting must happen within county lines, because each
county's representatives vote on their own budget.
Mirski said town boundaries matter. There is a real difference, he said,
between Enfield and nearby towns. "I didn't know anyone in Lyme," he said.
"I didn't know anyone in Hanover."
Historically, said Secretary of State Bill Gardner, New Hampshire has had at
least one representative per town, a tradition that stretches back to the
colonial era. For the first century of New Hampshire's statehood, any town
of 150 eligible voters had at least one representative. In 1877, the
threshold was changed to at least 600 residents.
By the 1940s, the Legislature had 430-odd members, Gardner said. There were
so many representatives that there weren't enough seats for them all, he
said, which is when the size was capped at 400.
Besides Loudon and Weare, the towns signed on to the suit are Canaan,
Enfield, Litchfield and Wilton. The other petitioners include former
representative Roy Maxfield, a Loudon Republican who lost his election in
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