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Town Meeting Vs. SB2

Robert Dennis Photography

The town meeting has often been called “the purest form of democracy,” and for more than three centuries, it was how New Hampshire local government was conducted.  Residents would gather on the second Tuesday in March – a convenient “down time” for farmers and loggers.  They’d deliberate for hours on budgets, and do a fair bit of socializing as well.   But more recently, attendance at town meetings steadily waned.  And so, about 20 years ago, the legislature gave towns a new option called Senate bill two.  This approach split the traditional process into two parts:  first, a “deliberative session” to debate the issues and draft warrant articles on those matters, and then a day-long ballot.  SB2 passed in 1995, and several dozen towns rushed to adopt it, mostly larger southern tier communities. Since then, every meeting season, there’s a discussion in towns across the state about whether to go this route, and even, among those that made the switch – about whether to switch back to traditional meeting. 


  • Dan Barrick – deputy director of the NH Center for Public Policy Studies
  • Rick Broussard - editor of NH Magazine
  • Edith Tucker – reporter for the Coos County Democrat
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