August 27, 2012RANDOLPH — Sample ballots for the Sept. 11 state primary are now posted on the bulletin board at the Lowe's Gas Station on Route 2. Family members who wait on customers buying gas, soft drinks and newspapers say that most voters are confused about why the ballots in this town of 310 residents list candidates for a state representative in both Coös District 5 and Coös District 7.
On the Republican ballot, there is no primary contest in Coös District 5; only incumbent Rep. John E. Tholl Jr. of Whitefield is listed. Coös 5 is made up of four towns: Carroll (Twin Mountain & Bretton Woods), Jefferson, Randolph, and Whitefield.
But three candidates are listed on the sample ballot as vying for the Republican nomination in Coös District 7: incumbent Rep. Bill Remick and Leon H. Rideout, both of Lancaster, and Jeffery P. Young of Jefferson.
"When people see two different Districts listed on the primary ballot, they're confused," gas station co-owner Alan Lowe pointed out.
The new Coös District 7 — a floterial (FL) district — is made up of 10 towns: Carroll, Dalton, Dummer, Jefferson, Lancaster, Milan, Northumberland (Groveton), Randolph, Stark and Whitefield, plus the Unincorporated Place of Kilkenny.
A floterial (pronounced "flow-tear-e-al") district is a legislative district that includes more than one separate district that if standing alone would not be entitled to additional representation, but whose combined population entitles the area to another seat. It is a multi-town district that "floats" over towns that already elect one or more legislators.
Three Districts — 2, 4, and 5 — make up the new Coös District 7. The floterial district stretches from the Androscoggin River in Dummer and Milan to the Connecticut River in Northumberland, Lancaster and Dalton, and it includes the Upper Ammonoosuc River in Stark and Northumberland and the Ammonoosuc River in Carroll.
The new Coös District 2 is made up of four towns: Dummer, Milan, Northumberland, and Stark.
The new Coös District 4 is made up of two towns — Dalton and Lancaster — plus the Unincorporated Place of Kilkenny.
(District 3 is the City of Berlin, which will now elect 3 state representatives.)
The history of floterial districts in the Granite State stretches back 30 years. Wikipedia details two relevant court cases, separated by 20 years. In 1982, the U.S. District Court upheld floterial districts. But in 2002, the state Supreme Court ruled that the floterial scheme is "complicated and often confusing" and, in addition, not specified in the state constitution. The Court created 88 districts across the state, none of them floterial, with only five not electing multiple representatives.
"Legislators and voters were dissatisfied that the larger districts in the Supreme Court's plan valued numerical equality over more local representation," according to Wikipedia. "Consequently, the New Hampshire constitution was amended in 2006 to guarantee a representative for each town or ward 'within a reasonable deviation from the ideal population for one or more representative seats' and to explicitly authorize floterial districts for fine-tuning.'"