Deliberative sessions are the times specifically set aside under the SB2 form of government to discuss and potentially change warrant articles. Residents don’t vote on whether or not to approve the warrant article at deliberative session – they vote instead to send the article to the warrant, and on Election Day, they vote the warrant article up or down.
But at these sessions, voters can amend most warrant articles, so long as they do not change the subject matter.
Depending on who’s in the audience, school budgets, for example, can be amended up or down before they go to the March ballot. That’s why you often hear the fear expressed that some group will “pack” the deliberative session and “force” their views on everyone else.
There’s no force. It’s up to the registered voters who show up. If the turnout is poor and few people are present to promote or defend their views, the majority of those in the room will have their way.
To participate, all you need do is to register to vote, attend deliberative, pay attention as the moderator explains the rules, read the proposed warrant articles, listen to public comment, and vote on any changes or send the article as is to the warrant.
The articles on the warrant hit you where you live, and as New Hampshire residents, we have the right to express our views in a forum specifically designed for that purpose, and to change articles if we have the votes.
Voters are clearly in the seat of power. That’s why it’s so important not only to attend, but to stay for the whole session. In some towns, that means about two hours. In other towns, it can take a whole day. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not such a time-consuming commitment to make.
Plan to attend, and play a role in one of the most participatory forms of democracy alive today. We can wave the flag and claim to be patriotic all we want; if we really believe in democracy, the deliberative session is the place to be.
And if you want to play an even more active role, Friday, Jan. 30, is the final day to file for elected school district or town office. Consider throwing your hat in the ring.
For your calendar: Londonderry School Deliberative is 7 p.m. Feb. 6, and the Town Deliberative is 9 a.m. Feb. 7.