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Katharine Gregg: To truly be free, we need to vote



For the Monitor
Sunday, September 09, 2018

You may be a longtime resident of New Hampshire or have moved to the state or your particular community because you value clean air and water, good schools for your kids, and lack of sales and income taxes. You may feel you don’t want to be involved in politics and would simply rather listen to the birds sing. But all these things are politics, and if you don’t register to vote and then go out and do it, you may lose them.

Voting is the only way to safeguard what’s important to you.

We’re confronting a number of important issues in New Hampshire, so I’d like to lay out different positions on them for comparison. That way you can form your own opinion and decide what you’d like to keep or change and make that known by voting.

Right-to-work versus unions

A right-to-work law does not require that an employee join a union or pay union dues thus allowing the employee freedom of choice.

Unions give bargaining strength to employees when negotiating with employers. The more union members there are in a company, the more power and financial resources the union has to conduct negotiations for union and nonunion employees.

Expanded Medicaid

Pro: Medicaid expansion covers individuals who are not poor enough to qualify for standard Medicaid but are not able to afford private insurance.

This expansion allows residents suffering from addictions to receive treatment.

A study in the 2017 New England Journal of Medicine indicates expanded Medicaid brings an increase in patient care and preventive care.

Con: Thus far New Hampshire has been able to fund expanded Medicaid without raising taxes, but if the federal government drops its funding below 95 percent, the state may have to raise taxes to cover the costs.

Individuals eligible for standard Medicaid are unable to work, but expanded Medicaid provides able-bodied adults who should be able to find full-time work with health insurance.

Increased insurance programs that allow increased access to health care are still too new to conclude whether individuals will go to doctors less frequently over time or more frequently because the care is cheaper. The lower co-pays that the state chose could encourage individuals to go to doctors more frequently than they really need to, thus raising the overall health care cost.

School vouchers

Pro: Parents can choose how and where their children are educated. They have a say in what their children are taught.

School vouchers improve education in general by forcing public schools to compete with private schools in a free market situation.

School vouchers allow low-income and racially diverse families to send their children to safer schools.

School vouchers enable families with special-needs children to send them to schools that may have more opportunities than public schools.

Con: Siphoning money into a voucher program depletes the funds needed to achieve excellence for all students – including students with special needs.

Tax money is intended to fund public education for all students and should not be used for religious education or curricula that may not meet adequate standards. There is no evidence yet to show that voucher schools improve student performance and readiness to participate gainfully in society.

Residency versus domicile for voting

“Residency” means a person intends to move more or less permanently to the state and means that they are committed to the issues of the state. Establishing residency requires the cost of registering one’s car in the state, paying for water, sewer and utilities, and as a property owner paying property taxes.

“Domicile” means a person resides in the state for a period of time before either establishing residency or moving elsewhere. Such people are often young adults who are studying or doing internships who haven’t great incomes and who may find it difficult to own and register a car in the state, though they may well be paying for water, sewer and utilities. Such people can still take a vital interest in the issues of the state and wish to vote.

Gerrymandering versus redistricting

“Gerrymandering” involves creating districts without any geographic unity so one party can dominate and thereby enhance its chances of winning an election and maintaining control of the Legislature. It has been practiced by both parties.

“Redistricting” occurs at each census and should reflect a recognizable geographic area rather than a political one that has often been created by manipulation. Efforts are being made to use algorithms and nonpartisan methods for drawing districts in order to create fair competition among constituent viewpoints and fairer representation of those concerns in the Legislature.

These are issues that come readily to mind. You can probably think of others. They’re all important, and it’s our responsibility to pursue them in the best possible way, though we may disagree on what way.

This is the “Live Free or Die” state. Free means being able to make choices, participate and resolve our concerns. We do this by registering and voting.

It’s the only way, and if we don’t, our freedom dies.

(Katharine Gregg is a poet and essayist living in Mason. She can be reached by email at kggregg@myfairpoint.net.)