I was elected just over a year ago to serve as the Moderator for the Exeter Regional Cooperative School District, a six-town cooperative that operates the Cooperative Middle School, the Exeter High School, the Seacoast School of Technology and Exeter Adult Education. It is an impressive entity, with a budget for next year of over $5.5 million. This is an “S.B. 2,” or official ballot law, district, so I had the honor of presiding over the deliberative session in February, at which members of the six towns that make up the cooperative meet to discuss the articles on the warrant and offer, debate and vote on amendments to them. Many years, this meeting is a quiet affair, over in less than a quarter of an hour. Not so this year. There was lively debate, about the role of education in our communities, our values, and the proper amount of money to spend for the 2014-2015 year. Many citizens spoke, and the meeting lasted over two hours! This is, at the most basic level, the purest form of democracy there is: what is called a “direct democracy,” I learned from my daughter’s ninth grade social studies project.
There are many laws about what can and cannot be done at the deliberative session, but the most important rule is that the process should be fair. As Moderator, it is my duty to make sure all voters who wish to speak can be heard. I give myself a passing grade on accomplishing that this year. Since I signed up for another one-year term, I will have another opportunity in 2015.
Voting day in March was another exercise in the beauty of our democratic process. Voters came into our polling places all day long, greeting those with signs outside the polling places, meeting their friends and neighbors. As Moderator for a six-town cooperative district, with individual polling places in each Town, I rode the circuit, from Exeter to Kensington, East Kingston, Brentwood, Newfields and Stratham, deputizing election officials at each location to act as Assistant Moderator for the Exeter Regional Cooperative School District. Much to my surprise, but also to my pleasure, I knew people at all the locations, meeting many DTC clients along the way.
After starting at 6:45 a.m. in Exeter, I finished up the day there as well, counting votes. We have a snazzy voting machine in Exeter for the Coop School District’s use; no “hanging chads” here. We processed the last votes, from Kensington, at about 11:30 p.m. It was a long day, but one well spent. I learned that, having run unopposed for a second term as Moderator, I won by a landslide.
Our democratic process is precious, and many people throughout the world will never be able to cast their votes in a fair election, or to speak out at a public meeting in their own countries. I am proud of our New Hampshire tradition. It works because of all the dedicated volunteers in our communities. I am proud to be one of them.