Traditional Town Meeting vs. Official Ballot

“Perhaps nothing exemplifies New Hampshire so much as the local town meeting. However, as of 2007, only one-third of the state’s residents lived in a town with a ‘traditional’ town meeting; one-third live in municipalities where a city council has governing authority and one-third live in communities that have adopted SB2 or another form of the ‘official ballot’ form of governance which replaces town meeting with a ballot process,” reports the NH Center for Public Policies.

The NH Policy report is available on-line.

In 1995, the legislature passed Senate Bill 2.

Shortly after in 1997, Sunapee adopted SB2 for municipal and school governance, which was a bit out of the norm based on the town’s size. It’s the larger towns that turn to SB2, according the public policy center, and most SB2 towns are in seacoast and southern areas of the state.

Of the 59 towns with SB2 in 2007, the average population was 7,800. Non-SB2 communities averaged 2,700. Sunapee’s population was 3354, according to the census estimate.

Also, “faster growing towns in New Hampshire have been most likely to adopt SB2. The 59 SB2 towns that had adopted SB2 by 2007 grew by almost 1,000 people per year from 1990 to 2000, three times faster than the towns that did not adopt SB2,” said the report.

New London, Newbury, Goshen, Springfield and Grantham hold “traditional” town meetings. Newport uses the SB2 “official ballot” process. In 2008, Article 7 in Newport sought to rescind SB2 requiring a 3/5th vote. The question failed.

Temple “in the heart of the Monadnock region” is currently debating whether to adopt SB2. Check out the “Soapbox.”

The apparent intent of SB2 was to bring more, informed voters into the process and allow more voters to decide on costly budget items. What do you think: Traditional town meeting vs. the “official ballot” process?

Related article: Sunapee Deliberative Session Over New Debate Begins (Sunapee News)

List of SB2 Communities (2007)

List of SB2 Communities (2007)

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