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Students in Plymouth were wrongly turned away from polls

To The Daily Sun,

Among the many rights we as Americans are granted, one stands above the rest – the right to vote. There is no force more powerful than the ability to choose the construct of one's society, and subsequently one's life. With the first-in-the-nation Primary Election behind us, it is important that our state learn from that experience. While the media focuses on the outcome of the Primary, what has received far less attention is the fact that many constitutionally eligible voters — in particularly student voters — were unjustly denied the right to cast their ballot on Tuesday.

On Primary Day, several Plymouth State students reported that they were wrongly turned away from the polls. They were told by apparently ill-informed poll workers that they could not vote either because they lacked identification, did not have a passport or birth certificate, or because they had out-of-state driver's licenses. Ultimately, the Attorney General's office had to dispatch an employee to Plymouth to monitor the situation and remind the poll workers of their legal obligations. There is no way of knowing exactly how many students were denied their right to vote before the Attorney General's office intervened.

A number of the students who were wrongfully turned away on Tuesday were disheartened and distraught by an experience that should have been one of empowerment and civic engagement. As a student trustee for the University System of New Hampshire, I have seen students endeavor to vote despite the barriers of recent years. Yet with all their passion for exercising their right to vote, students still need support from their community as they develop healthy voting habits and a sense of civic responsibility.

As one of the most influential actors in students' lives, universities are part of a student's support system but not the only influencers. Students need the support of the rest of their community stakeholders. Local and state governments are important players in cultivating students' strong civic engagement as they exercise their right to participate in the electoral process. If we expect students to develop into civic-minded and informed adults, we must encourage voting and impress upon our students the importance of civic responsibility.

Why is there such opposition to the student vote, and who has taken it upon themselves to violate student voting rights?

Student voting should not be a red or blue issue, yet many individuals take exception to students voting in New Hampshire. Many students relinquish political or social investment in their home towns and instead look to New Hampshire. They spend the majority of their four or more years here, held accountable under our laws and adding to our economy and social fabric. They are just as much a part of our society as those of us that claim New Hampshire as our residence and should be treated as such — we should all remember that come November. We must ensure that what happened in Plymouth on Tuesday never happens again.

Lincoln Crutchfield

Concord and Durham

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Video shows why Timber Hill Farm’s neighbors complain

To The Daily Sun,

Andrew and Martina Howe, the owners of Timber Hill Farm located on Gunstock Hill and Old Lakes Shore Roads in Gilford, submitted an application for site plan approval to hold wedding receptions and other catered events for up to 200 people, with parking, bands, lights, port-a-toilets, and alcohol. Events of this nature are a commercial use under the Gilford ordinances. But the applicants claim it's agritourism and therefore a permitted agricultural use.

I encourage readers to view a YouTube video of one of many wedding receptions held on the farm last year and make their own determination. It was taken from the abutting neighbor's backyard and is on record in the Planning Department office.

Interested readers can google: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8iEkpWsCef4 to view it.

Here's what's happened:

1. The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), which controls permitted "uses" under the ordinances, approved agritourism as a permitted use, thereby allowing the catered events in the residential zone. The town attorney had previously written a contrary opinion based on a recent state Supreme Court decision.

Andrew Howe has been a chair and member of the ZBA for many years and has established close relationships with one or more members. Did these relationships impact the ZBA's actions? Many feel it did.

2. Andrew Howe received a letter from the Gilford Planning Director notifying him that site plan approval was required for the events. Nevertheless, the events were conducted without approval. Did he believe the town wouldn't do anything? Well, it didn't, and why not? If someone else did it, I am certain there would have been consequences.

3. The site plan application was heard Monday evening. Numerous residential property owners spoke at this and prior meetings asking the board to deny the application. Others wrote letters or signed petitions of opposition. At the meetings, only a few residents support it. The meeting lasted from 7 p.m. to almost midnight. Meetings usually aren't continued past 10 p.m. Pushing the application through benefited only the applicant since wedding receptions had already been booked for 2016. The Planning Board knew it.

The vote was a tie leaving the chairperson with the deciding vote. He voted for approval. A few days earlier, he and the Town Planner met to discuss the application and prepare a draft of conditions for approval for consideration.

Nothing was prepared for consideration in case of denial. Why would the chairperson participate in preparing the draft unless there was a "mindset" to approve the application prior to it's being heard. When you've helped prepare a draft of conditions for approval, how do you vote against it?

Also, were board members influenced by the chairperson's participation in drafting the conditions for approval? I happen to respect the chairperson as an individual and board member, but a serious mistake was made in this instance harming the interests of residential property owners.

Many residential owners on Gunstock Hill and Old Lakeshore Roads feel their interests have been ignored in favor of the well-known applicants. If readers view the video mentioned, it will open their eyes and aid them in making their own determinations.

Bill Seed


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