Lying in politics is corrosive to our democracy. And lying about gerrymandering is particularly bad.
by Phil Hatcher
Governor Sununu recently vetoed, for the second year in a row, a commonsense bill to create a bipartisan, advisory redistricting commission. In his veto message he stated that “New Hampshire has a redistricting process that is fair,” “issues of gerrymandering in the State are rare,” and “we must be careful before pursuing wholesale changes to systems that have proven themselves to work for New Hampshire.”
Of course, the first two of these statements are clearly false. Fair and rare? Come on, Governor. Have you never seen the shape of the second district of the Executive Council, which is often described as a dragon that has swallowed a medium-sized mammal? Do you not remember that the last two redistricting battles in 2002 and 2012 ended up in the state’s Supreme Court?
And the third statement begs the question: Works for who? Yes, gerrymandering works for the governor and his party, desperate to hold onto power, despite their steadily diminishing political strength, and shamelessly willing to use gerrymandering and voter suppression to undermine the will of the voters. But gerrymandering does not work for anyone else.
We Need Two Parties
Our state needs at least two functioning political parties, ready to compete for voters based upon their ideas, their ability to effectively implement policies, and their visions for the future. Today in New Hampshire we only have one functioning party, the Democratic party. The Republican party has been hollowed out and disconnected from a majority of the state’s residents by Trumpism, as well as an addiction to taking direction from special interests outside of the state. In fact, apparently there is evidence, which Governor Sununu is fighting in court to keep hidden, that he took his marching orders from Scott Walker to veto the 2019 redistricting bill. Scott Walker is the former Republican governor of Wisconsin who now leads the National Republican Redistricting Trust. This would mean that Governor Sununu values the opinion of Scott Walker more than he does the people of New Hampshire, including the Republicans who voted for the bill in the House as well as all the Republicans in the Senate, none of whom objected when the bill was approved in that body by a unanimous voice vote.
Implementing a redistricting commission would force the process into the open and would require bipartisan compromise, no matter which party currently controlled the legislature or the governor’s office. A large majority of Americans, across all parties, understand that it is just plain wrong to allow the politicians to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. Let’s make the politicians compete for their voters.
Lying Leads to Cynicism
Gerrymandering reinforces the growing cynicism about government, as does the obvious lying about redistricting shenanigans. And Governor Sununu knows he is lying about these vetoes. Both years he announced the vetoes late on Fridays, hoping to bury them and hide them from the public.
And we Democrats need to be more honest too. We had a chance in 2009-2010, when we were in control in Concord, to pass a bill to set up a commission. That we did not act then also builds cynicism about our motives and sincerity.
So let’s put a stop to the corrosive lying by committing to passing legislation in 2021 to set up a redistricting commission no matter what happens in the 2020 elections. President Trump, with his constant lying, has brought this nation to its knees. Taking action to eliminate gerrymandering would be one small step we could take here in New Hampshire to start to rebuild trust in our democracy.
Phil Hatcher retired from the University of New Hampshire in 2019 after 33 years teaching computer science. He was born in Ohio and raised in Indiana, but he and his wife, Peggy Kieschnick, have lived in Dover since 1986. They have two children and one grandchild, all living in Brooklyn, New York. This makes them wonder: why can’t we keep our young people in New Hampshire?
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