Democracy New Hampshire Style
by Paul Wolf - posted 1:39 am, October 10, 2013
A recent analysis by Jim Heaney, documented the declining rate of voting taking place in Buffalo. Only 20% of registered Democrats voted in the Buffalo Mayor primary election. The number of people participating in school board elections is even worse at 7%.
The state of New Hampshire ranks higher than the national average for voter turnout, engaging in political discussions, contacting public officials, volunteering, and charitable giving, according to new research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Voter turnout for local politics in New Hampshire is above average when compared with the rest of the nation, with 63.6 percent of N.H. residents reporting they always or sometimes vote in local elections compared with 57.8 percent nationally.
According to a Louis Jacobson article posted on Governing.com, State government in New Hampshire is structured in a unique way in that their lower House of Representatives consists of 400 members with each district consisting of about 3,000 residents for every one legislator. There’s a saying in New Hampshire that you have either served as a state representative, are serving now or will serve eventually. New York State has 150 Asssembly Members representing 128,000 people per district.
The New Hampshire state senate consists of 24 people. Other interesting points about New Hampshire state government:
- Unlike in many legislatures, Party seating location is not enforced, as seating is often decided on the personal preference of the legislator.
- The governor, is elected every two years — a once-common system that now exists only in New Hampshire and Vermont.Most states including New York the Governor serves a four year term.
- Legislators only get paid $100 a year. The small salary tends to eliminate career politicians and New Hampshire’s legislature has an interesting mix of retirees, people with job flexibility like realtors or attorneys, and college students.
- Campaigns also tend to be cheap: Spending $5,000 for a House race would be on the high end of the scale. Some winning candidates can get by with close to zero in expenditures.
- Whenever a bill is introduced in the legislature an open public meeting has to be held. Legislative hearing rooms are booked several days a week, every week, and hearings sometimes run all day long. Every bill has to be voted on and receive a recommendation; if an item wins approval from the full House, the measure will get a second hearing and vote in the Senate.
In the Buffalo area many governmental bodies have been downsized. In the City of Buffalo with a population of 267,000, nine City Councilmembers represent an average of about 30,000 people. In the Erie County Legislature, 11 members represent an average of 82,000 citizens.
What do you think about how New Hampshire State government is structured? Would there be any benefit to implementing some of New Hampshire’s methods in New York or your community?