Tuesday, September 09, 2008

EAOP Prof Pushes Publicly-Financed Elections

I'm happy to report that my EAOP colleague Abigail Abrash Walton has taken a lead role, along with beloved activist Doris "Granny D" Haddock pictured to the right, in pushing the New Hampshire legislature ever closer to enacting voluntary public funding for elections for all major state offices. Indeed, Abi was just named to a new state commission recently convened by the NH state legislature to explore possible funding mechanisms for a system of publicly financed elections in New Hampshire. If this long-term effort is successful, it will help democratize elections in New Hampshire considerably, as it has in Maine and Arizon where similar state election systems have been put in place through active citizen advocacy and organizing.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the commission on which Abi sits held its first public hearing in Concord. The hearing, which lasted over three hours, was attended by dozens of organizational representatives, activists and legislators, many of whom shared ideas on how a system of publicly financed elections could be funded in New Hampshire. The commission must make its recommendations to the legislature no later than December 1 of this year.

State Senators Martha Fuller Clark and Jackie Cilley, both of whom spoke at the hearing, attributed rising campaign costs most directly to the cost of political advertising. Demonstrating their strong commitment to making public funding a reality in NH, the two senators also brought ideas for potential funding to the table. Among them were: a surcharge on political advertisting, fees for posting political signs on public lands, and fees paid by parties or others seeking to access town voter files. All who spoke stressed the importance of public funding of elections as a way to make public service accessible to all qualified candidates, not just those who can raise the most money.

"The growing expense of running for office effectively bars people without access to money from public service," said Linda Garrish Thomas of New Hampshire Citizens Alliance.

We in the EAOP are very proud of Abi's work to establish this commission and her work now as an appointed member of the commission. This is just another great example of how so many Antioch University New England faculty, students, and staff are active and engaged citizens in our local, state, national, and international communities.

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