At the August meeting of the Tri-Town Democrats of Barnstead, Gilmanton, and Alton, the guest speaker was Alton resident Brian Beihl of Open Democracy. Beihl talked about voting rights and electoral issues in New Hampshire and at the federal level. There are currently over 400 anti-voter bills pending nationwide, bills involving gerrymandering and making it harder for various groups to vote.
In New Hampshire, the anti-voter efforts focus on student voting, absentee voting, and gerrymandering. Numerous bills up for vote in the fall seek to make it more difficult to vote, by eliminating same day registration, imposing requirements on absentee voting, and changing the definition of domicile to suppress the student vote.
Despite these efforts, New Hampshire voters have shown their preference for fairness in elections. The New Hampshire Resolution for Fair, Nonpartisan Redistricting passed by wide margins in 74 towns, including Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton. If redistricting is done fairly, and in a nonpartisan way, all voters benefit regardless of which party is in power. Independent redistricting commissions draw electoral maps based on population numbers and common interests of towns such as a lake, a school, or other factors, in contrast to gerrymandered districts that attempt to squeeze the voters of one party into a geographical area to limit their possible influence.
In Alton and Gilmanton, the resolution would also give those towns their own elected state representatives, in accordance with the New Hampshire Constitution, instead of sharing with neighboring towns. Gilmanton currently has no representative who lives there, and the opposite situation could easily now occur, with all of Alton’s representatives living elsewhere. Under the resolution that passed, towns would each have their own representatives.
On the federal level, the legislation under discussion was the For the People Act, SB 1, formerly HR 1, legislation to protect the right to vote for all citizens, and address campaign finance reform, requiring disclosure of “dark money” donors, showing who is behind the large contributions that are currently secret.
Beihl emphasized that Open Democracy is nonpartisan, and works to ensure fairness for all voters regardless of party affiliation. Although at any given time one party may dominate, the goal of Open Democracy is to make elections fair for all and protect the right to vote. Based on the widespread support for the redistricting resolution, including in conservative towns of Belknap County and more liberal towns in other parts of the state, New Hampshire voters favor fairness in elections.
To learn more about Open Democracy, visit opendemocracynh.org.