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Freestaters helping to enfranchise towns and voters

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  • Tim Condon
    The following article is from the Concord Monitor, the newspaper that serves as an organ of state government in New Hampshire. Interestingly, although they
    Message 1 of 1 , May 7, 2008
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      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

      State House
      Towns claim districts don't pass muster Suit seeks to redraw
      legislative lines
      Monitor staff
      May 06, 2008

      Related articles:
      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
      its size.

      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 lawsuit.

      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
      This article is: 1 days old.

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