Making Democracy Work

What's New

LWV 2012 Environmental Series

Bringing Nature Home: Creating a Healthy Landscape

The League's Natural Resources Committee has pulled together experts in lawn care, stormwater management and landscaping to educate homeowners, schools and businesses on ways to promote biodiversity and reduce the envirionmental impact of home-landscaping practices. Check the calendar for details.

To download a poster for this series, click here

Citizen Guides

The League has revised the local Citizens Guides for three Upper Valley towns for 2012. These brochures provide current listings for town boards, meeting locations and times, town officials and information about voting. Paper copies are available in town libraries and town offices.

Community Conversations

The League of Women Voters of the Upper Valley is pleased to co-sponsor "Community Conversation" groups on the connections between human health and environmental health. There are nearly twenty of these six-session discussion groups running from early January to mid-May.

Members can join a conversation in their own town, or can set up their own discussion groups. Several of attended similar discussion groups last year. You'll have lots to think about; and fun with the discussion.

To learn where the nearest conversation is, or start one of your own see details at Catamount Earth Institute

Voting in the NH Presidential Primary

Voting in NH's Presidential Primary: Tuesday January 10, 2012

NH allows "same day voter registration." If you have recently moved to your city or town and for some reason have not yet registered in your city or town, you may do so on election day. Bring proof of identity, age, and residence (such as birth certificate, driver's license, utility bill with your name and current address etc.)

A PHOTO ID IS NOT REQUIRED TO VOTE IN THIS ELECTION

The date for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential primary is Tuesday, January 10, 2012. Those who are already registered as Republicans or Democrats may vote only in their party. Independents may choose the ballot of either party. The deadline for changing party affiliation has passed (Oct. 14, 2011) for this Presidential primary.

If you are denied your right to vote and believe you are a qualified voter in your city or town, immediately phone the Secretary of State (271-3242) or the State Attorney General (271-3658). Additional help is at the NH Votes Helpdesk 1-800-540-5954.

To view sample ballots go to http://www.sos.nh.gov FYI- There are 14 names including Obama on the Democratic Ballot; there are 30 names (Including all that have appeared in the news) on the Republican ballot.

If you wish to return to 'Independent' status, you may change your party to non-aligned at the polls, after you cast your primary vote.

November 8 Meeting on Redistricting

On Tuesday, November 8, the LWV of the Upper Valley held a meeting where the public may learn about the NH redistricting process. Enfield Representative, Paul Mirski, chairs the redistricting committee and providde background information on this process. The public can ask questions about the process.

Redistricting in NH

Members of the NH Redistricting Committee
Chair: Paul Mirski (R )
V Chair: David Bates (R)
Clerk: Steve Villancout (R )
Republicans: Gene Chandler, David Hess, Robert Rowe, Edwin Smith, Herbert Richardson, Warren Groen, Peter Silva, Wiliam Smith, Elaine Swinford, Spec Bowers.
Democrats: Sandra Keans, David Pierce, Lucy Weber, Robert Perry.
Staff: Secretary: Kay Culberson. Researcher: Pam Smarling. Phone: 271-3319

Here is a link to the NH Redistricting committee's website that is now available.

If you go to the read background information on this website, you will find a lot of material, such as a glossary, NH redistricting guidelines for 2011 and recent change to the NH Constitution, Voting Rights Act.

Redistricting Hearing in Grafton County, held October 20,2011

Observations on the hearing:
This was an initial meeting, one of the ten held in each county during October, to gather input from the public. Once a draft-redistricting plan is ready, there will be public hearings for public comment and opportunity to ask questions of the committee. Committee members were not there to answer questions, but were there to ask questions of speakers; some of the concerns raised were discussed during the course of the evening. Most of the 30+ people in the audience were current members of the NH House of Representatives, as their districts are to be re-drawn in most cases.

In 2006, the NH state constitution was amended to require that towns with enough inhabitants to have one or more districts would be established as a single-town district. Further, the fractional excess population in two or more contiguous districts can be combined into a `floterial' or `at-large' district. It was noted that the committee is responsible for the redistricting for the US House, the NH State House and the Executive Council districts. The NH Senate determines its own district lines; these may cross county boundaries.

Here are the committee's DRAFT redistricting guidelines for 2011:
1. Districts should be drawn in such a manner as to adhere to the one man + one vote principle. Districts for state offices should be substantially equal in population. The population of districts should not deviate by more than 5% above or 5% below the ideal population. The ideal population for a House district is 3,291. Congressional districts should be as nearly equal in population as practicable.
2. In accordance with Part 2, Article 9 of the New Hampshire Constitution, and regardless of the office for which a redistricting plan is drawn, no plan shall divide a town, ward or unincorporated place.
3. Districts for the New Hampshire House of Representatives shall drawn in accordance with Part 2, Article 11. Districts may be composed of one or more towns, one or more wards, or a combination of towns and wards. Floterial, or at-large, districts shall be composed of two or more underlying districts. All districts, including floterial districts, should be as small as practicable.
4. No district in a redistricting plan for the New Hampshire House of Representatives shall cross county lines.
5. Districts should be composed of convenient, contiguous territory. Contiguity by water is acceptable if the water is not a serious obstacle to travel within the district.
6. Districts should not dilute the voting strength of racial or language minority populations.
7. Districts should be as compact as possible.

Here are some of the concerns that were raised in the meeting about Grafton's districts:

  • Lebanon has not yet officially changed the lines of its wards, according to two members of the City Council. It is not clear why the delay, since census data has been around since the spring (April). At least one line needs a small adjustment. The adoption of a new ward map recently created by City Clerk will still cause further delay in the process, as the City Council must approve, and then the voters must concur. This probably can't happen until late January, so combining the vote with Presdential Primary is probably impossible; the City will incur the extra cost is approximately $10,000 for a special election. This is probably a minor problem, so far as redistricting is concerned, since Lebanon has no fraction of population requiring a floterial district with neighboring towns. There is some questions as to whether there will be 4 'at large' representatives or just one (the other three from each of the three wards) under the revisions of the NH Constitution; one member of the redistricting committee suggested that the City consult it's legal counsel on this.
  • Many current legislators spoke about the problems with their current districts. Much of Grafton is sparsely populated, so many towns must be joined to create one district. The legislator for Grafton + 2 had 6 towns stretched from Conn R to Waterville Valley. He noted it is hard to cover the district adequately.
  • Some spoke about the size of their districts and disparity of towns, with frustration that it was difficult to get acquainted (or even known) with people in the district.
  • Some expressed desire to have district include those towns that are already well connected, with services such as fire / police, shopping, schools.
  • Others mentioned the problems of geography, such as river without bridge, so getting from A to B is really a tough detour. Or, mountains between towns. Watersheds sound like logical basis for gathering towns into a district, but then that bridge problem arises.
  • While the NH Constitution doesn't say anything about how to assign seats, the districts should not cross a county line. The reason for this is (to paraphrase Chair Mirski) that when the legislators created county government (1771), they gave themselves a role to play as the `county delegation' or its legislative body, with responsibilities to allocate funds and approve the county budget. The administrative body consists of the three elected county commissioners.
  • During the course of the evening, it was observed that a `deviation' of more than 10% of the desired number of 3,291 is too much.
  • Representative Chuck Townsend (Canaan) distributed a `for example' redistricting for the committee's consideration, showing reconfiguration of districts, and four floterial seats. This caused a good bit of questioning from the committee.

It isn't clear that the committee has selected software for redistricting.

Deadline: New Hampshire state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional lines, though candidates must file for congressional primary elections by June 15, 2012. [N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 655: 14]

Non-Partisan Websites with Redistricting Information

The Public Mapping Project This site hosts open source (free) redistricting software, and encourages schools to make use of it. It has former LWV US president Mary Wilson on its advisory board, along with representatives from Common Cause, the Brookings Institute, The American Enterprise Institute, R&D members of congress, so it seems pretty non-partisan. The principal investigators of the project are Dr. Michael McDonald (Associate Professor, George Mason University; non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings) and Dr. Micah Altman (Senior Research Scientist, Harvard University; non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings). You can learn all about the software, but it seems best to have a state-wide platform, agent to make the most of this. In recent news, the MN Supreme Court will consider mapping done by the MN Redistricting Competition ( http://www.drawminnesota.org/contest/ ) which uses this software. Similar contests have been run in in OH and for Philadelphia. These states now have Amazon Machine Instances (AMI): FL, GA,RI, OR, NY, SC, SC, MA, NM, OK

All About Redistricting This is the website of Prof Justin Levitt, of the Loyola Law School. Levitt has several resources that might be useful for schools: Citizen's Guide to Redistricting which is full of interesting information and comparisons of states, and a powerpoint about redistricting that might be useful to use in classrooms, and a 5-part video on the topic that might be shown in whole or in part.

The Levitt website has a page titled How can the Public Engage which asks some good questions about the process of redistricting, that interested citizens might ask.

The Brenan Center Center for Justice (NYU Law School) has a page about redistricting, and also has an informative blog on redistricting, with many bits of news and other related information:

Compactness: The ideal compact district would be a circle, with a score of 1. A square district has a compactness score of 0.785. Other shapes have lower scores. The topic of 'compactness' is one of the 'ideal' guidelines for redistricting, but is subject to debate when the time comes for redistricting, where other considerations must be factored in, such as town boundaries or the irregularities of geography. Here is a link to a white paper on gerrymandering. Also see this article for information about compactness prepared by one of the big companies (Azavaea) that does geospatial analysis. This document has extensive discussion about the mathematics of measuring `compactness'.

The Redistricting Game: This game is a fascinating introduction to the process, and the allows the player a variety of approaches to redistricting. Easy to use. Dramatic side issues evolve in attempting to accomplish assorted 'goals'.

GERRYMANDERING, this new documentary is available to download for free until November 15, 2011

Civics Education

Sandra Day O'Connor interactive civics website
http://www.ourcourts.org

And David Souter is promoting Civics Education
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32253677/ns/politics-more_politics/

NOTES from a Talk by Gretchen Wallace, founder of Global Grassroots

Notes from the September 22 talk on "Conscious Social Change for Women" by Gretchen Wallace, sponsored by the LWVUV and co-sponsored by the Women's Network of the Upper Valley.

Gretchen Wallace is a 2001 Tuck School graduate and founder of Global Grassroots, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about social change by and for women and girls in underdeveloped countries, primarily in Africa. Her main interests are refugee issues, women's status in poor and war-torn countries, HIV, and sexual violence.

General obstacles that stand in the way of women's progress:

  • The stigma, shame and loss of family women suffer after being raped
  • Women's reluctance to assert themselves in their male-dominated society (men generally do not trust or respect women and will not listen to them)
  • Myths about HIV
  • Women widowed by HIV often forced into prostitution to support themselves and their children.
  • Lack of economic opportunities for women, who are economically too dependent on men
  • Abuse often affects very young children (outside current war zones, South Africa is worst in this regard
  • Women are disadvantaged by lack of education

Gretchen Wallace's program looks for "change agents" at the grassroots level and works toward enabling them to bring about long-term change in their communities. Her observations (while working for Ashoka, Innovators for the Public in VA) of local women who had achieved local success led her to form Global Grassroots (GGR), fostering support programs for training women in organizing change.

She listed several examples of change projects: 1) An unsuccessful example: an idealistic young man attempting to create change in refugee rights by establishing 3 small libraries in refugee camps with regular lectures on issues affecting the population. This did not work for several reasons: people could not read and refugee populations are so traumatized and in such constant flux that they are unable to concentrate on attempting to better their conditions through educational means.

2) Successful example: in one non-refugee community drinking water was polluted by water-borne pathogens. Much energy was expended in collecting water from farther away, with more than 3 hours of labor needed to gather a day's supply (10 gallons per family/day). In addition to walking long distances carrying the water, women doing the collection were very likely to be sexually assaulted if they were alone or out at dusk.

GGR supported a women's initiative to build two tanks to collect rainwater from the church roof and sell the water to those who could afford it and give it away to those who couldn't. This initiative served 1,000 people in the community. Women slept in groups next to the tanks to protect their supply. Vulnerable women were supported, and men began to be interested. The money collected led to all sorts of programs, including a revolving loan fund. It took four years to succeed and has by now expanded to provide water to 6,000 people.

GGR researches a community to see what is needed and to locate the person/ s who might become "change agent/s". These are invited to become part of the program and asked what issues are facing the women in the community and for ideas on how to deal with the problems. It takes several months to build a local program and provide leadership training, involving mind- body training. Women (and sometimes a few men) learn how to build a sustainable project and are supported in their efforts by GGR for 12-18 months. During this time they learn how to sustain themselves and how to leverage money for further growth. The end goal is to promote local entrepreneurship, so that the projects will not require future aid. Initial funding (not loan) for a project is often a grant on the order of $6,000. So far, GGR has trained 300 change agents through its "Academy for Conscious Change", mainly women (10% men), and the programs launched become micro non-profts in their own right. It is now looking at using technology to reach out and train change agents.

So far, GGR `s work in concentrated in Rwanda, but by now about 170 women's groups from 45 countries are requesting help from GGR in helping them find local solutions to local problems. Expanding the programs to other countries will be difficult, however, given GGR's small staff of 5.

GGR's funding is currently at $400,000, including 60 foundation grants and donations. Some funds come from licensing their film. Trainers are funded to teach others and thus multiply their effect.

Gretchen Wallace firmly believes that, even though the 501.c.3 Global Grassroots's core mission is working with women in post-conflict countries, its support systems could be used to bring about local change not only in countries affected by war, but also in areas hit by natural disasters and otherwise economically and socially stressed communities anywhere, including the US. To this end it is looking for local partners who would like to have a financial role in working with local projects.

Other Organizations for Helping Women

Nick Kristoff's book, Half the Sky, has a list of aid organizations, including Global Grassroots, that work with women in various capacities.

The LWV of the United States has an exchange program that brings women from other developing countries to this country to engage them in learning about civic institutions.

How the LWV US works with women in other countries: The national LWV has a Global Democracy program for activists and nongovernmental organizations worldwide. Working with groups abroad to increase their voice in stressing transparency, accountability, and good governance in their societies, the League assists in expanding community influence in public policy-making processes while helping citizens build leadership skills through interactive, hands-on training and citizen exchange programs (in which local leagues particpate by hosting foreign participants). The League of Women Voters is registered as a Private Voluntary Organization with USAID and is part of the Registry of Civil Society Organizations with the Organization of American States.

The Incarceration of Women in NH

In NH, 52% of women offenders return to prison within 3 years. Few women are in prison for violent crimes, most are in prison for property or drug crimes. Studies show that the first few months after release are most important in determining how released offenders adjust to their return to society.
  • Materials developed by the NH Department of Corrections about repeat offenders can be found here
    Each of the studies has a summary, if you don't have time to read them all. The Department has been developing the study for past 4 years, and the studies have detailed statistics about the recidivism rates in a three-year interval.

  • SB500 on recidivism, adopted in 2010, can be found here

  • The LWV of New Hampshire has articles about this topic

New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

LWVNH announces participation in the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Recognizing that the Death Penalty is ineffective as a matter of public policy, the NHCADP seeks to:

1. publicize information about current legislation pertaining to the death penalty in NH and
2. strategize and mobilize actions on behalf of abolishing the death penalty.

What can I do to get involved?

  • Come to a vigil! We hold a vigil against the death penalty the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month from 12-1 pm on Main Street in Concord, NH in front of the State House.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper.
  • Tell your friends about NHCADP and ask them to join by signing up on the home page
  • Contact your legislator and tell him or her that you support abolition of the death penalty.
  • Attend meetings of the DP Study Commission:

The Study Commission, created by HB 520, is chartered to study the death penalty in NH and issue a report and recommendations by 1 December 2010.

When: Friday, Feb 5, 2010; Friday, Mar 5, 2010 Where: Legislative Office Building (map)

http://www.NoDeathPenaltyNH.org

League's Position on Health Care Reform

The League believes that quality, affordable health care should be available to all U.S. residents. Other U.S. health care policy goals should include the equitable distribution of services, efficient and economical delivery of care, advancement of medical research and technology, and a reasonable total national expenditure level for health care. Furthermore, the League believes that all Americans should have access to a basic level of care that includes the prevention of disease, health promotion and education, primary care (including prenatal and reproductive health), acute care, long-term care and mental health care.

Through decades of work in their communities, League members have learned that Americans believe that fairness and responsibility, as well as access, are important values for any health care system. We believe that healthcare reform can only succeed if it takes all these values into account. For more information, click here.

Sea Ice Presentation

On Sept. 24, Cathleen Geiger did a great presentation about sea ice in the Arctic and global warming. More info