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February 5, 2013

Deliberative sessions see poor attendance

In Derry, less than half of 1 percent add $800,000 to budget


The low attendance numbers lead Southern New Hampshire University political science professor Dean Spiliotes to believe deliberative sessions may be a thing of the past.

“It just doesn’t seem to work as much as it once used to,” Spiliotes said. “Eventually, I think this could be more virtual. I know political scientists are working on Internet voting and how to use the Internet as an arena for a virtual town hall.”

Getting people to attend a meeting on a Saturday morning isn’t easy.

“People are busy on weekends,” Campbell said. “They just don’t have time or aren’t making the time to go to a deliberative session.”

Only 1.1 percent of registered voters went to Atkinson Academy Saturday morning for that town’s session, a number that surprised Selectmen’s Chairman Fred Childs.

“This year is the most disappointing I’ve ever seen it,” Childs said. “This is where voters get a chance to turn things around. Each year the number keeps decreasing.”

Other low turnouts included 0.67 percent in Plaistow and 0.94 percent in Newton. Kingston and Sandown had less than 2 percent of their registered voters attend.

Windham will be holding its town deliberative session Saturday. Town Administrator David Sullivan is not expecting a big crowd.

“It should be anywhere between 50 to 75 people,” Sullivan said. “The only time we have more than 100 people there is if something controversial is on the warrant.”

Spiliotes said it makes sense that this year in particular would see less interest in town politics.

“You typically see civil burnout after a presidential election year,” Spiliotes said. “Once people get through that big decision, attention to politics seems to diminish a little bit.”

University of New Hampshire political analyst Andy Smith said people just aren’t in the habit of making deliberative sessions a go-to event.

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