FILE - New Hampshire Capitol

New Hampshire State House, Concord, New Hampshire

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire Republicans are plodding ahead with new political maps for the state's congressional boundaries, brushing aside claims by Democrats the districts have been gerrymandered in the GOP's favor.

On Tuesday, a GOP-led committee tasked with redrawing the state's political boundaries based on the 2020 census results approved proposed new maps for the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts that will guide elections for the next decade. 

The panel's 8-7 vote went along party lines, with Democrats opposing the redistricting changes. 

Republicans on the committee pushed back against claims from Democrats that the reconfigured maps were crafted to ensure that Republicans win a congressional seat. 

"There is a notion out there that these maps are uncompetitive," state Rep. Ross Berry, R-Manchester, said during the committee's debate on the maps. "It’s just not true."

Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, pointed out that the state's congressional maps have been largely unchanged since the 1800s and questioned why there was a need to radically alter them. 

“This is the first time that a Republican-controlled committee is proposing a dramatic change that basically readjusts the district for about 25 % of the citizens of the state," she said. "Those are dramatic changes, and there ought to be dramatic reasons to make those changes." 

The new maps would make the 1st Congressional District more Republican by shifting several GOP-leaning communities – including Salem, Hudson and Windham – into the district.

The plan would make the 2nd Congressional District slightly more Democratic by including several Democratic-leaning communities, including Portsmouth, Rochester and Dover.

The 1st District is currently represented by Democrat Chris Pappas, while the 2nd District is represented by Democrat Annie Kuster. 

Both are facing challenges in next year's midterm elections when Republicans will be seeking to regain control of Congress. 

Democrats accused Republican lawmakers of "institutionalized corruption" by carving up the congressional districts in their favor. 

"These rigged congressional maps are a complete disgrace and an affront to every Granite Stater who believes in democracy," said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "We all know that voters should pick their politicians, not the other way around."

The U.S. Constitution requires states to draw new congressional district lines every 10 years following the census to account for changes in their population. States also use those numbers to draw maps for their state legislative districts.

Between 2010 and 2019, the Granite State grew by about 4%, adding 57,600 new residents for a total population of 1,379,089, according to 2020 census data.

New Hampshire has 424 state legislators and two representatives in Congress, which won't increase or decrease based on the most recent census figures.

A Senate redistricting committee is redrawing the boundaries for its 24 districts and the five-member Executive Council. 

Democrats had previously raised concerns that Republicans might try to redraw political maps to favor GOP candidates after taking over the Legislature in the 2020 elections. 

The redistricting plans must ultimately be approved by the full Legislature before heading to Gov. Chris Sununu's desk for consideration.