As we update our voting maps after the 2020 U.S. census, Open Democracy, along with its partner groups are launching an effort to have towns express support for the NEW HAMPSHIRE RESOLUTION FOR NONPARTISAN FAIR REDISTRICTING.
What's a Petitioned Warrant Article?
Town meetings are held each year, most in March, but some as late as June, in 161 towns in New Hampshire, well over half of New Hampshire's 224 communities. A town warrant is the slate of issues which come before town meeting, including the approval of the budget, the purchase of capital equipment like fire trucks and police cruisers, and special requests from town departments or other groups.
New Hampshire's Constitution also allows for voters to petition to add an article to the warrant, and these "petitioned warrant articles" often appear at the end of the slate of issues, and sometimes include resolutions on state and national issues. Here's a great primer on the NH Municipal Association's website about warrant articles at town meeting.
In most NH towns, you need a minimum of 25 signatures of registered voters, however, we recommend collecting 50 or more to be sure you have enough. Town clerks or voting officials will verify that all the signatures are of registered voters and take off those who are not, so more is better!
If you live in a city, or a town with a town council form of government and no town meeting, your process is different, so click here to find out what you need to do.
Contact your Clerk or Moderator for Deadlines & Procedures
To start, please contact your local town clerk, who may send you to the moderator and/or the town administrator. Ask these questions:
- What is Town meeting date as scheduled now? (Subject to change for COVID conditions)
- When should petitions be submitted?
- Would you like to review the proposed warrant article language prior to seeking signatures?
- Given COVID, would electronic submissions of petitions be allowed by picture or scan?
Gather and Verify the Information You'll Need
1) Before you solicit signatures, you'll need to DOWNLOAD and CUSTOMIZE this form. When complete, send to Brian Beihl at Open Democracy for approval.
3) After approval, send the petition form to your town clerk to obtain an opinion on whether the language meets the town's requirements for a petitioned warrant article. Work with the clerk to get the language to meet these standards, but try to keep the resolution as intact as you can.
4) Once the language is agreed upon, IT MAY NOT BE CHANGED ONCE SIGNATURES ARE COLLECTED. Doing so will invalidate the signatures.
Now Get the Signatures
Normally, we'd collect signatures in front of grocery stores, hardware, transfer stations, outside community meetings, or town hall. With COVID-19, that's more complicated.
Remote / Downloadable Petitions - For Town Meeting/SB2 Towns
For 2020/2021, we've developed a one form = one person form which can be downloaded and printed, and which will need to be either mailed back, or if allowed by your clerk. a picture texted back.
- Customize the form according to the specifications of your town
- Make it into a PDF (or send it to Open Democracy to do it)
- We can put it on a server and give you a link to send by email or social media, OR
- You can send it to people as an attachment
When you customize the form, be sure to provide information on how to return it, including a mailing address, and if your clerk or moderator allow it, to allow signers to take a picture of the form and either email or text it back to you.
If you are comfortable with it, a day at the transfer station will likely get the signatures you need.
1) Ask permission if it's private property. Public buildings often have a free speech area you may be restricted to.
2) Signers must be a registered voter, so we recommend you ask before presenting the petition.
3) Bring clipboards, tables and signage -- and a mask!
4) Submit your signatures to the Town Clerk for verification in early January, if possible. That allows recovery should anything go wrong prior to the deadline.
Before Town Meeting
Congratulations! You've successfully placed your article on the warrant. A couple more easy steps, and you'll improve your chances of winning the vote.
1) Write a letter to the editor of your local papers, and ask your friends to do the same. We'll be creating some content for you to use.
2) Use Facebook or other social media to let the community know what the article number is, and what it is about. We've created some pictures and content for you to use as well.
3) Create flyers for bulletin boards or a big sign for the center of town.
4) Send a press release (see the sample) to your local papers.
Table Signs to Print
At Town Meeting
1) Have flyers copied to hand out at town meeting. Most people won't know what gerrymandering is, so it's important to explain it. We've written a flyer for you to hand out at Town Meeting or to distribute publicly via town email lists, town Facebook groups, or in other town communications. Voters don't like to be cheated, and Gerrymandering is cheating and it has to stop.
2) Speak to your article at town meeting if you can. Here's an example of what to say. You need to be a registered voter in that town to speak. If you are not a registered voter, or not from that town, you must ask for permission from the moderator, who will in turn ask for any objections from the voters. Something like: "I have passed out a flyer describing about how Big Money politics is corrupting our politicians in Washington. If you are as tired of special interests controlling our government as I am, I urge you to send a message to our elected officials in NH and Washington and vote YES on Article 12. Thank you!"
We're Here to Help if You Need It!
We want to see you succeed, so Open Democracy staff is here to assist you if you need materials or advice. Send Brian Beihl an email at [email protected], or call him at 603-620-8300.
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