A special master appointed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court has proposed small changes to the state’s existing U.S. House district lines, a potential solution to a months-long stalemate between Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and his fellow Republicans who control the state legislature.
In an opinion published Friday, Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily proposed moving just five small towns from New Hampshire’s First District into its Second District, creating two districts with almost identical populations.
Persily’s proposal would shift 8,973 people from one district to the other, he said in the filing, a shift that is nearly identical to maps proposed by two sets of state legislators and one that is far less disruptive than a plan by the state legislature that would have shifted about a quarter of the state’s population.
The new district lines leave largely in place districts held by both Reps. Chris Pappas (D), who will lose the five towns, and Annie Kuster (D), who will gain the new constituents.
Both districts are seen as competitive, though Democrats have held both since 2016.
Pappas’s old district favored President Biden by a six-point margin in 2020, backed former President Donald Trump by almost 1.6 percentage points in 2016, and favored then-President Barack Obama by a virtually identical margin over Mitt Romney in 2012.
Kuster’s seat tilts more toward Democrats, favoring Biden by nearly nine points in 2020, Hillary Clinton by two points in 2016 and Obama by almost 10 points in 2012.
New Hampshire’s existing district lines have existed largely in their present form — plus or minus a few border towns that flip between districts based on population shifts — for a century and a half. In recent decades, both parties have been able to win both seats.
But last year, the Republican-controlled legislature proposed a substantial change that would have created one largely safe Democratic seat in Kuster’s district, and one that favored Republicans in Pappas’s district.
Sununu vetoed that map, and squashed several subsequent revisions, because he said they were unnecessarily disruptive. Later, he wondered why Republicans would surrender the chance to win both seats for the security of knowing they would win one.
The delay meant that New Hampshire has become the last state in which the decennial redistricting process is still ongoing, though several other states are still litigating their new maps in court.
Both Pappas and Kuster face challenges from Republican rivals this year. GOP voters will pick between state Rep. Tim Baxter (R), realtor Gale Huff Brown — the wife of former Sen. Scott Brown (R) — and Trump White House ages Karoline Leavitt and Matt Mowers in the race against Pappas. In the other district, Kuster will face the winner of a primary between former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns (R), state Sen. Harold French (R) and state Rep. Jeffrey Greeson (R).
The state Supreme Court must now approve the map lines and order their implementation, though that is likely a formality.