The Supreme Court of New Hampshire asserted its authority to take over the state's congressional redistricting process if Republican lawmakers are unable to resolve their differences in a Thursday ruling.

New Hampshire's high court rejected arguments from Republicans that it lacks the authority to stage a takeover and explained that current congressional districts cannot stand, sending state lawmakers and the governor back to the drawing board in an effort to keep the redistricting process within their purview following the Thursday opinion.


"This court has both the authority and the obligation to ensure that the upcoming election proceeds under a legally valid congressional district plan," the court wrote.

If Republicans fail to overcome their impasse, the court will apply the “least change” approach.

"Any congressional redistricting plan that we may adopt will reflect the least change necessary to remedy the constitutional deficiencies in the existing congressional districts," the court noted.

The court refrained from assuming the redistricting role, only leaving the door open in the event that the state government is unable to reach a resolution. In April, the high court threatened to take over the redistricting process and appointed a special master to help draw a new map in the event that the legislature and governor failed to produce one.

Some Republicans issued objections in the case, arguing that the legislature had exclusive authority over redistricting because of the “times, places, and manner” provision of the Constitution.

However, in its opinion released on Thursday, the court cited other instances of other state courts taking over the process, including Wisconsin, which also adopted the “least change” approach after a stalemate between Republicans and Democrats. Under that approach, the court will strive to make the fewest changes possible to the Granite State's existing congressional map.

New Hampshire's Republican-led state legislature and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu have been ensnared in one of the country's most contentious intraparty melees over how to apportion the two congressional districts. Republican lawmakers want to cement a safe seat at the cost of ceding the other one to Democrats. But Sununu, who vetoed that proposal, wants both seats to remain competitive.

Last week, the state House approved a new congressional map that made the 1st Congressional District competitive and the 2nd Congressional District more Democratic-leaning, but Sununu quickly threw water on the proposal, which would also need to clear the state Senate.


While the congressional map remains in limbo, Granite State Republicans have reached an agreement on state legislature maps. Last Friday, Sununu signed two maps into effect for the state Senate and Executive Council, which are expected to face legal challenges from Democrats.

New Hampshire is one of two states that has failed to enact a congressional map during the most recent redistricting cycle, alongside Missouri. Other states, including Florida, Kansas, and New York, enacted maps but had them shot down in courts. Those five states are without legally binding congressional maps, and roughly a dozen states have litigation pending over their maps.