EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 13, 2014

Editorial: Didn't vote? Don't complain

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — New Hampshire voters had their say Tuesday — or at least a few of them did.

The shameful turnout for deliberative sessions last month in Southern New Hampshire was repeated around much of the region at the polls Tuesday.

In most towns, few people bothered to find 10 minutes in a 12- to 13-hour polling window to cast a ballot for or against operating budgets, new dump trucks, school bonds, and the election of municipal and school officials.

“Pathetic” is how Londonderry town moderator Cindi Rice Conley described the 13 percent turnout in her community.

At least Londonderry topped Derry, where a fractured and ineffective Town Council elicits plenty of complaints, but two open seats attracted a grand total of three candidates. Most residents there didn’t bother to vote. Just 6.3 percent of the town’s 20,108 registered voters made the effort. That means nearly 94 percent of the town’s registered voters didn’t care.

This is the town where someone lighting a cigarette in a municipal park draws fire from every corner. It’s the same place where road crews have taken a public beating this winter that rivals a drive down the continuous pothole that is Lane Road.

People aren’t afraid to speak their mind in Derry, as long as they can do it from the comfort of the couch or a sneaky texted comment from their cellphone. Ask them to exercise their constitutional right to vote and the excuses pile up faster than discarded campaign signs along Route 102.

While Derry bears the dubious distinction of the worst turnout across the region, some other towns weren’t far behind. Plaistow saw just 17 percent of its voters, Hampstead 27 percent. Gee, where were the school supporters in that community, where both a renovation project for the two local schools and the school budget went down in flames?

Pelham school supporters did their homework and legwork. The confetti is still swirling around the high school there after an impressive 41 percent of voters gave the nod to a $22.6 million high school expansion and renovation project.

Windham school supporters, too, worked to get people out to approve a new teacher contract. The 35 percent turnout was enough to do the job.

In Atkinson, where former police chief Phil Consentino’s candidacy for selectman ought to have drawn a crowd, just 31 percent voted. Consentino is in and, no doubt, the complaints from many of the 69 percent who didn’t vote soon will be, too.

In tiny Danville, police Chief Wade Parsons, still facing a criminal charge for an incident last year that left a 15-year-old boy dead, easily won re-election over his challenger. That may have been the catalyst for the 37 percent of voters who cast ballots.

There’s plenty of Wednesday morning quarterbacking going on. Some residents are suffering from PTMS, Post Town Meeting Syndrome. They’re unhappy with the results of the polling, but, wait, they didn’t vote. Pathetic indeed.

The list of those who voted is public information. Maybe publication of a list of those who didn’t is in order. Then, with every Facebook comment or letter to the editor, the response could be, “Oh, sorry, you didn’t participate. Your complaint doesn’t register.”

Granite Staters love the fact that they don’t live in Massachusetts. It’s one of the reasons they gave for our “603 Reasons” project that highlights all that’s special about New Hampshire.

Well, grassroots democracy is Town Meeting is participatory government is one resident, one vote.

There’s nothing special about what happened Tuesday.

New Hampshire ought to be ashamed.