New Hampshire residents have been holding Town Meeting since the early 1600s. It's the one time of year when every resident has a voice in the weightiest of decisions —who will govern, how much money to spend and what employee contracts should look like.
Times change. Fewer residents find or make the time to attend deliberative sessions to listen, debate and flex those democratic muscles.
Look at Londonderry, where less than 1 percent of registered voters made the effort last month to attend the town and school deliberative sessions.
While Derry School District officials touted attendance, higher than in recent memory, just a measly 1.1 percent of registered voters bothered to show up.
Tuesday voters are asked to get themselves to the voting booth sometime within a 13-hour span to mark their ballots for elected officials, budgets, contracts and more.
These are important decisions. Londonderry has a four-way race for two Town Council seats. Derry, a town noted for its dissatisfaction with the current fractured Town Council, managed only one contested race for a seat on that all important board.
There are budgets, big ones, up for approval or rejection. Londonderry has a proposed $28 million town budget and a $66 million school budget. School voters are also asked to OK $4 million for needed school renovations. Derry has a proposed $80.5 million school budget.
For whatever reason, there are races for library trustee in both towns, three vying for two seats in Londonderry, a staggering six candidates for three seats in Derry. Too bad the competition wasn't stiffer for Town Council there.
Londonderry voters also face a couple of warrant articles that could change the face of the future. One proposal calls for splitting the town clerk/tax collector job into two positions, and, more importantly, making the town clerk's job part time. Officials say it will save the town $110,000 a year.