SAVE THE DATE!
April 10, 2021 2-4 pm, will be the date and time for this year's Redistricting Forum. The planning committee is hard at work contacting speakers and creating workshops. Our last Redistricting Summit attracted 250 registrants, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, and other great speakers. Given the importance of redistricting (and potential gerrymandering) this year, if you care about our Democracy, you won't want to miss it. SHARE THIS EVENT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
- Defining fair redistricting
- What is gerrymandering & how is it done?
- NH's tangled history with gerrymandering
- What's happening in NH to ensure fair maps in 2021
- How to get involved in the effort for fair, nonpartisan & transparent maps
The event is free, but we want to make sure it gets on your calendar! RSVP below, and you will receive more info when it becomes available.
Hosted by Open Democracy. Cosponsored by League of Women Voters - NH; Kent Street Coalition and Granite State Progress.
Thank you for visiting to learn more about New Hampshire's redistricting process, and the NH Resolution for Fair Nonpartisan Redistricting.
The Basics of Redistricting & Gerrymandering
In short, redistricting is an every-ten-year process that takes the U.S. Census data, and reapportions the population into more-or-less equal voting districts for state elected positions like the Executive Council, State Senate, and State House. It also includes the two U.S. House of Representatives seats for NH, as well as for county commissioner.
By current state law, the NH House is responsible for most of the redistricting, with the NH Senate doing the Congressional districts. The process is supposed to be fair, nonpartisan, and transparent to the public. Fair voting districts are geographic areas of close to equal population. Voters in those districts should have something in common, such as a school district, perhaps a lake, or a common economy. Our legislature appoints a "special committee" which reflects the percentage of legislators that each party got elected. That committee draws the voting maps, has public hearings and submits them to the full legislature for a vote.
Voting maps should NOT be drawn on the basis or race, religion, ethnicity or political party, or between areas which have nothing in common, or perhaps competing interests. When maps are drawn using this data are often are manipulated to cheat, and control the outcome of elections for the party in charge at the time. The graphic at right shows how this is done, called "gerrymandering."
What Happened in 2011
In 2011, a legislature hostile to fair, nonpartisan redistricting drafted new voting districts which gerrymandered dozens of NH towns, as detailed in the articles below. The Special Committee had no real part in the process; the maps were in fact drawn by a small group of legislators out of the sight of the public, using an still unknown software package. When public hearings were held around the state, there were no maps shown to the public or most state legislators. When state rep district maps were finally available, the NH House had only one week to review them, and the public only had 24 hours! There was little transparency in the process.
- Concord Monitor, Dec. 15, 2011: Politics-Election Redistricting plan unveiled
- New Hampshire Public Radio, June 7, 2017: How Gerrymandering Skewed the 2016 Elections
- NH Union Leader- Coming soon
- NH Supreme Court: Brief by NH Senator David Pierce
- League of Women Voters in the NH Union Leader: NH Voices: Liz Tentarelli -- Learning from the past
Gerrymandering Could Get Worse in 2021
In 2021, there's a very good chance that this gerrymandering could get worse, not better, unless voters speak up and make sure that legislators know that the voters demand a FAIR, NONPARTISAN and TRANSPARENT process. Without the proposed permanent solution of an "independent redistricting commission," which passed the legislature with bipartisan votes but was vetoed twice, we again are depending on the good consciences of our state legislators.
Passing the NH Resolution for Fair Nonpartisan Redistricting
While we would prefer to push for a permanent independent redistricting commission, that is unlikely to happen in time for the 2021 redistricting. So instead we are passing the NH Resolution for Fair, Nonpartisan Redistricting in as many towns as possible.
Between Dec 2020 and early February 2021, volunteers working with Open Democracy and other organizations around the state will be proposing "petitioned warrant articles" in 100 town-meeting & SB 2 towns around the state. In cities, volunteers will be working with city councils and boards of aldermen. In both types of government, we will be asking for a non-binding resolution to be sent to our state elected officials. We're asking a town's voters to:
- Demand fairness and transparency in the process of drawing new maps
- Require that maps be drawn with no favoritism to one party or the other
- Make sure that the mapping process happens in public meetings
- That towns of 3300 citizens or larger be given their own state representative districts, rather than being split with other towns.
- And that the board of selectmen from that town communicate in writing the wishes of the town to the State and Federal delegations.
We have more details on our Town Meeting "How-To" page, or if you live in a city or a town with a town council, our Council Resolution page, but this initiative is designed to use our local town warrants to inform local voters on the evils of gerrymandering, and pressure our legislature to put party politics aside and create nonpartisan voting districts for state representative, NH senator, executive council, and U.S. Congress. The voters want fairness, but politicians want power. As a voter, it should be YOU calling the shots!
If you have further questions about the NH Resolution for Fair Nonpartisan Redistricting in your town, or want to pass a resolution in your town, contact Open Democracy's deputy director, Brian Beihl, for more information.Sign up
Nonpartisan Open Democracy works to keep elections FAIR for all, and to and allow all eligible voters to exercise their RIGHT to vote. This year, our work is more important than ever.
In the last two weeks before the 2020 election, we are mobilizing our Regional Democracy Teams, volunteers from Protect the Vote, and Open Democracy supporters to form an Election Protection Task Force to observe the election in and around their home towns.
This Sunday night, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. via Zoom and phone, we are holding an information session and training for all interested citizens to help protect the vote. We ask that you sign up in advance for what we expect to be a 60 to 90 minute discussion and training.
Below are the roles in the task force, both from home and at local in-person locations. When you register for the meeting, please tell us what role, or roles, fit your schedule and situation best.
- Pre-Election Checklist/Absentee Pre-Processing Monitors - (Inide, in person, your local town hall) Final Supervisors of the Checklist meetings are required 6-13 days prior to the election and decisions and voters can use that opportunity to register. Then beginning the Thursday before election day, pre-processing of absentee ballots begins. In both these cases, your job is to listen and observe, making sure everyone follows the rules. Recently, a person's registration was briefly rejected due an Arabic-sounding name, despite having all of the proper voting documentation.
- Pre-Election/Election Day Media Monitors - (from home) Monitoring news media and social media for misinformation and disinformation, and amplifying positive posts (in-home activity). We need citizens to monitor their local newspapers and radio for mistakes on voting information, and monitor local Facebook and other social media groups to identify errors and report any disinformation intended to suppress the vote. We are teamed up with Common Cause to evaluate and report this information.
- Election Day Roaming monitors - (Outdoors, In person, towns around you) You'll be traveling around to several towns to monitor outside the polls activities, talking with voters and visibility folks outside the polls. Looking for voter suppression/intimidation issues, logistical issues, and reporting to the SOS, AG or other authorities as necessary.
- Election Day Poll Observers - (Inside, in person, your town's polls) Stationed inside the polls, looking for voter suppression, violations of mask policies, inconsistent or incorrect rules, or disenfranchising of voters.
If you haven't been able to participate in the Regional Democracy Teams, this is an excellent, short-term action that is SO VERY IMPORTANT to the integrity of our election.
Below, tell us in which Election Protection Task Force role you'd be interested, using the job descriptions above.
After saving your choice, a confirmation email will come with training links and resources to prepare you for helping.
We'll be in touch shortly via our "Protect the Vote" Google Group
When you're done, you'll be sent to our Election Protection Task Force training and tools page
Vote-by-mail absentee ballots have been used in New Hampshire since 1775, and 7-10% of ballots cast in NH elections are by absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are traditionally used when the voter will be out of state or far away from their town, on religious holidays, and other reasons specified below. There are two applications, one for town elections, and another for state and federal elections. For any questions specific to your town, your city or town clerk is the primary election officials dealing with absentee ballots.
Those issues which pertain specifically to absentee voting during the Covid 19 pandemic are listed in dark red, below.
Voting by Absentee Ballot in NH - Normal Circumstances
- Physical disability (and for 2020, concern with COVID-19)
- Religious observance
- Absence from City on day of election
- Employment obligations. For the purpose of absentee voting, the term "employment" shall include the care of children and infirm adults, with or without compensation.
What better way to be involved in the integrity of our electoral system than becoming an election official in your community! These positions range from a Supervisor of the Checklist, which require a day-long commitment on election day and town meeting, and occasional preparatory meetings throughout the rest of the year, to Town or City Clerk, which are often part time or full time paid positions. Please NOTE this might be different in your town or city.
Local Election Official Job Descriptions
Supervisor of the Checklist
- Determine if an applicant is legally qualified to vote,
- Update the Checklist of registered voters with new voter registrations and any status changes,
- Maintain and update the voter files,
- Attend periodic training sessions held in Concord,
- Hold periodic mandatory supervisor sessions and post notices in advance, and
- Educate voters about any changes to voting procedure or law. On Election Day, supervisors are to be present before, during and after elections to set up, register voters, facilitate party changes, do data entry, and tally numbers required by the Secy. of State’s Office. Following an election, supervisors enter any new voter applications and status changes into the database and scan checklists to record voter history.
● City Clerks are appointed by City Council and are typically paid positions
● The mission of the City Clerk's Office is to efficiently meet all statutory obligations with respect to elections, vital records, and City Council.
● The City Clerk's Office is responsible for the preservation and management of all vital events occurring within the city. Those vital events include births, marriages, and deaths. In addition to vital records, the office records all official documents of the city.
● The office conducts and preserves the integrity of all local, state, and federal elections.
● The office is responsible for the preparation of all City Council agendas, minutes, and official
● All Town Clerks are Elected for a one year or three year term, depending upon which option the town voted to enact, and must live within the town in which they serve. These are typically paid positions.
● The Town Clerk appoints the Deputy Town Clerk and the appointment is subject to approval of the Selectmen.
● The Deputy Town Clerk must also be a resident of the town and able to perform all the duties of the Town Clerk
● The Town Clerk is the chief election official, is responsible for keeping all town records, certifying actions of the Selectmen and other town officials, making official reports, collecting fees, carrying out specific mandated laws and many other municipal related duties.
Supervisors of the Checklist
Three Supervisors of the Checklist are elected with staggered terms of six years to serve the voters.
● Duties include:
○ Determining if an applicant is legally qualified to vote,
○ Updating the Checklist of registered voters with new voter registrations and any status changes
○ Maintaining and updating the voter files
○ Attending periodic training sessions held in Concord
○ Holding periodic mandatory supervisor sessions and post notices in advance, and
○ Educating voters about any changes to voting procedure or law.
● On Election Day, supervisors are to be present before, during and after elections to set up, register voters, facilitate party changes, do data entry, and tally numbers required by the Secy. of State’s Office.
● Following an election, supervisors enter any new voter applications and status changes into the database and scan checklists to record voter history.
● Elected for a two year term at the annual meeting, in towns every even numbered year, in cities every other regular city election.
● The moderator is the chief election officer in charge of the polls at the ward level.
● The moderator is under the direction of the city clerk who is the city’s chief election officer.
● It is the responsibility of the moderator to make certain that all the election officers are available on the day of the election and that each is familiar with their respective duties for the day.
● The moderator is required to have the polling place open and ready to accept voters at the prescribed time
● During the election day, the moderator is charged with maintaining order at the polling place and ensuring that proper documentation is posted
● In towns, moderators also run the town meeting. They stand at the front of the room, welcome voters, and explain meeting protocols
• Town Selectman: Elected for a three year term at the annual meeting.
• Ward Selectmen: Elected for two-year terms at the biennial municipal election, every odd-numbered year.
• There are three elected selectmen per ward.
• The selectmen may be responsible for choosing the polling place. They report directly to the moderator.
• Their primary duty is to maintain the checklist and to aid the voters in the election process.
• They must be signatories on warrants and most of the election reports and are, therefore, responsible for the proper counting of the election results (including tallies and absentee counting) and providing the Ward or Town Clerk with their results.
• They are responsible for the orderly flow of voters through the polling place and to ensure that the
polls are open and functioning properly.
• They are also responsible for making appointments of ballot inspectors if the two major parties fail
to appoint within the required timeframe.
• Elected for a two-year term at the biennial municipal election, every odd-numbered year.
• The ward clerk reports to the moderator.
• The primary duty of the clerk shall be to administer and prepare the documentation required at the polling place. This includes not only the election return and tally sheets and associated reports, but will also include such documentation as poll workers time sheets, payroll records, W-4 forms, etc.
• The ward clerk must pick up the ward supplies and documentation package at the city clerk’s office before reporting to the polling place.
• The ward clerk shall also aid any voters who may need assistance in the polling area. The clerk will assist the moderator in the course of managing the polling place.
• Other duties require the clerk, at the direction of the city clerk and the Secretary of State, to require the selectmen to sign and post warrants announcing the upcoming election.
Ballot Inspector/ Ballot Clerk
Ballot Inspectors (also known as Ballot Clerks) are community members just like you interested in maintaining the integrity of our elections. As a Ballot Inspector, you would serve in one of the many roles needed at the polls - marking the checklist, handing out ballots, helping voters in need at the ballot booths, receiving ballots at the box, and more. These positions are two year terms, serve for all state and local elections, and come with a small monetary stipend for your service.
Carol Shea-Porter, Chair. - former member of Congress (D-NH); politics and history teacher; founder of a non-profit social service agency
John Broderick – former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court; former Executive Director of the Rudman Center at University of New Hampshire Law School
Brad Cook – partner and past President of Sheehan Phinney Law Firm; Chair of the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission
Lew Feldstein – past President of the NH Charitable Foundation; co-author of Better Together: Restoring the American Community
Paul Hodes – former member of Congress (D-NH); attorney; member, National Council on the Arts; founder of the Economic Innovation Institute
Joe Magruder – former News Editor, Associated Press of New Hampshire
Lillye Ramos Spooner – Director of Operations for Greater Manchester AIDS Project; former member of the NH Commission on the Status of Women
Stephen Reno – Executive Director of Leadership New Hampshire; former Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire
John Rauh – former President of Americans for Campaign Reform, now part of Issue One; former Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
Jim Rubens – entrepreneur; former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate; former New Hampshire state Senator
Betty Tamposi, Assistant Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush; as a state Representative, was Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; former member of the Board of Governors of the University of New Hampshire
Dan Weeks - co-owner of ReVision Energy; former Executive Director of Open Democracy
** Affiliations listed for identification purposes only. Advisory Board members serve in their individual capacities.
Our organization might be small, but our reputation in NH is one that we fight for ALL the voters and citizens of the Granite State. Whether it's fair voting districts, ending the grip that special interest money has on our politicians, or making sure lobbyists don't have a louder voice than you, Open Democracy is here for an Equal Voice for All. Thanks for supporting our mission.
- Get involved! Sign up to get communications,
- Volunteer, or join a regional Open Democracy Team! Right now, protecting our democracy needs you to speak up, and to take action.
- Give a one-time or recurring gift to help support our mission, if you're unable to take action. This helps us organize others and expand the chorus of voices for reform!
Or please, mail us a check to "Coalition for Open Democracy",
4 Park Street, Suite 301, Concord, NH 03301
Do you need more reasons to give to Open Democracy? Check out this video our board members and staff did for Giving Tuesday!