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Submit your questions for Judd Gregg: Civility and civic engagement in NH

Aug 27, 2019

BY: Citizens Count

Next Thursday, the Union Leader's publisher Joe McQuaid will interview Sen. Judd Gregg live on stage at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester for Constitutionally Speaking's 2019 William W. Treat Lecture. The two will discuss how to make sure civil political dialogue and active civic engagement live on for future generations in the Granite State.

Are civility and civic involvement in danger?

New Hampshire has a proud history of civil dialogue and civic engagement. This is true, in part, because citizens here are empowered to effect meaningful change. As we explored in an article earlier this month, state elections are often decided by just a handful of votes, meaning that a single Granite Stater's ballot really can make a difference. It is also common for laws and policy changes to come about thanks to the passion of a single resident.

On the other hand, our recent study of legislator voting records suggests partisanship is on the rise in New Hampshire. We found that the New Hampshire House, in particular, increasingly tends to vote along party lines. 

Thoughts from state leaders

“New Hampshire does democracy better than anywhere else, and we engage in it in a way that recognizes the importance of diverse, impassioned and respectful political thought.  Our town meeting form of local government is premised on the concept that every member of the community can contribute — and has a right to contribute— ideas to improve their town or solve a problem. And we see that ethos play out as well in our large state legislature where representatives have the opportunity to interact closely with their constituents and directly with each other.  And because our form of government encourages direct participation and debate, it gives us practice doing it as well.  It’s one of the critical reasons that Granite Staters have hosted the first in the nation primary for one hundred years, and it’s one of the reasons our primary continues to be an essential part of America’s democratic process.”
– Senator Maggie Hassan

"Presidential elections are built and won in the Granite State, and our first-in-the-nation primary is the model of civic engagement: it puts candidates through their paces and affords everyone the opportunity to make their case to voters. The intimate nature of our retail politics makes it a personal experience, which in turn demands the best from candidates, both in terms of policy as well as the person. In a state that still adheres to the colonial American tradition of holding town meetings, we value every voice in our community and important practices that help ensure accountability from our leaders.  In New Hampshire, it’s not about being a Democrat or Republican, it’s about fighting for the issues that matter to Granite State working families. It’s not about who has the best one-liner, it’s about who a candidate is willing to work with to get the job done. The unique New Hampshire ideology transcends politics, and I believe reminding people of how we do things in our state would be beneficial to returning to a place of civility and substance in our national discourse."
Senator Jeanne Shaheen

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What do you think about the state of civic life in New Hampshire? Is the Granite State's tradition of engagement and civility alive and well? Or is there work to be done? 

Comments

Martha Madsen
- Contoocook

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 8:42am

As compared with larger states, I do believe that NH offers citizens more opportunity to engage in decision-making and change in their communities: through civic participation, volunteerism, town meetings and committees, and as a result of the large citizen legislature. How has this engagement changed overtime? Also, how can people who feel left out of the process, who feel unheard, or are afraid to speak up -- How can they be brought back into the process? There is a cynicism that comes from being ignored, and the cynicism causes disengagement and sometimes hostility. I wonder how we can address this problem of disengagement in our communities. How does the two-party system affect this process of engagement?

Jackie Benson
- Kensington

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 9:05am

Interesting topic. I believe that New Hampshire does offer citizens a great deal of access to the political process, but that access isn't always easy to take advantage of. I'd love to see the state open more doors to people who can't necessarily drop what they're doing on a weekday and drive to Concord for public hearings. I work full time and have two small kids at home, so I know for me personally it would be hard to make it to a hearing. On the other hand, I've had great experiences with writing to my representatives or other legislators who did not represent my district, but were on committees considering bills I cared about. I wonder if people feel that New Hampshire's current system does allow them enough access to make a difference, or if they believe the state could be doing more in that department.

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