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NH Weekend March, Town Hall Focus on Need for Election Reforms

New Hampshire activists are focusing on getting big money out of politics. (Kevin Bowe)
New Hampshire activists are focusing on getting big money out of politics. (Kevin Bowe)
July 8, 2019

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – A march for public funding of political campaigns and a presidential town hall focusing on similar election reform issues capped off the Independence weekend in New Hampshire.

The march Sunday was inspired by Granite State native Doris "Granny D" Haddock, who at the age of 90 in 2000 walked across the country to promote campaign finance reform.

Haddock attracted bipartisan support back then, including from then-U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and John McCain.

Olivia Zink, executive director of the advocacy group Open Democracy and an organizer of the march, sees that aspect as critical in a polarized political environment.

"The issue of campaign finance reform is very bipartisan,” she states. “We want every candidate, Republican and Democratic parties, to be talking about what we need to do to fix our democracy. We really need a system that represents all of our voices. Billionaires should not be picking who can run for office."

The march began in Kittery, Maine, and ended in downtown Portsmouth.

Maine has a system of voluntary public campaign financing, so Zink says the march was symbolically bringing similar election reforms to New Hampshire.

Following the march and speeches in Market Square, some marchers walked up the street to a Democracy Town Hall co-hosted by the group Equal Citizens.

It featured U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, a Democratic Party presidential candidate.

The Democracy Town Hall was co-moderated by citizen-activist Katie Fahey, who in 2017 wrote a Facebook post calling for reforms to end gerrymandering in her home state of Michigan.

The post went viral, and Fahey spearheaded a successful statewide ballot question that created an independent redistricting commission.

Zink says putting an end to gerrymandering is another Open Democracy priority in New Hampshire.

"Voters need to be picking politicians, politicians should not be picking voters,” she states. “So, this year we passed a non-partisan redistricting commission from the House and the Senate that would create a fair process, so that lines could not be drawn in the back rooms in Concord."

Zink is optimistic that a new generation is already embracing bipartisan democratic reforms, citing the 29-year old Fahey and 19-year old New Hampshire resident Ella McGrail, who was one of the speakers after the march.

Kevin Bowe/Scott Herron, Public News Service - NH