All is not well with democracy in New Hampshire. According the latest empirical data on democratic health, New Hampshire citizens face significant structural barriers to equal participation and representation in the political process and are overwhelmingly turned off from politics. In all six dimensions of democratic health analyzed above – Voting, Civic Participation, Election Funding, Lobbying Government, Electoral Competition, and Diversity of Representation – the data show that New Hampshire is falling far short of the democratic principles set forth in the state constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The result is more than an abstract violation of democratic ideals: systemic under-representation of large swaths of the population in elections and policy-making have real implications for the level of opportunity and overall quality of life people enjoy.
New Hampshire is not alone. A growing body of academic research into the distribution of political voice and power across the United States finds high levels of inequality with respect to both the inputs (participation) and outputs (representation) of American politics. At both the state and federal level, for example, large numbers of citizens are disengaged and sometimes disenfranchised at the polls and major campaign contributors and lobbyists dominate elections and policymaking. Although New Hampshire fares reasonably well on major democratic health indicators relative to the nation as a whole, the limited available data suggest it is falling behind the other New England states. More important than New Hampshire’s standing in relation to other states, however, are the absolute deficits identified in this report.
It is not within the scope of the Open Democracy Index to present solutions to the state's democratic deficits identified above. Nevertheless, the data argue unequivocally that reform is needed and four core areas of reform should be considered: election modernization, civic education, campaign finance reform, and lobbying transparency and reform. It will be up to concerned citizens, advocacy organizations, and the state's elected leaders to consider and expand on the foregoing empirical evidence and develop a menu of political process reforms that can secure New Hampshire's democratic foundations for future generations.
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