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Forum, Nov. 18: Lebanon ‘Welcoming’ ordinance is topic of hearing Thursday

Published: 11/17/2020 10:00:11 PM
Modified: 11/17/2020 10:00:03 PM
Lebanon ‘Welcoming’ ordinance is topic of hearing Thursday

In March, Lebanon voters adopted an ordinance known as the “Welcoming Lebanon” ordinance that was designed to limit police and other city employees from cooperating with federal immigration authorities seeking to collect data on the immigration status of people.

Before the vote, the City Council endorsed the spirit of the ordinance, but acknowledged legal concerns raised by the city’s attorney as well as unintended consequences raised by members of the city administration, including the police chief.

Appointed by the mayor, the Fair and Impartial Policing Task Force engaged in more than a dozen public work sessions over the summer and early fall, accepting public testimony at each meeting and hearing from legal counsel for the city, the petitioners’ committee and city employees.

One of the major areas of consensus identified by the task force is that the primary intent of the ordinance is to prohibit discrimination and to prohibit local law enforcement from participating in enforcement of federal civil immigration law.

The task force worked through many of the concerns that had been identified, including the “notification” provision, the specific occasions when certain data may be collected by city agents, and avoiding interference with legitimate municipal functions.

The one area where the task force was not able to reach unanimous consensus was around the issue of enforcement. The ordinance passed by the voters in March includes a violation penalty pursuant to state law (RSA 625:9). The revised ordinance recommended by the task force — though not unanimously — removes the violation penalty and replaces it with enforcement through city policies.

On Thursday, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the recommendations of the Fair and Impartial Policing Task Force. The City Council invites members of the community to weigh in on this important issue. We hope you can make it on Thursday at 7 p.m. via livestream at lebanonnh.gov/live, or you can email your city councilor.

KAREN LIOT HILL

Lebanon

The writer is a Lebanon city councilor and chair of Fair and Impartial Policing Task Force.

Build a bridge of dialogue about election process

The Associated Press article “Trump voters absorb Biden win” (Nov. 13) comes at an opportune moment as President-elect Joe Biden breaks 300 Electoral College votes and solidifies his victory. Now is the perfect moment to begin the urgent process of national healing.

This will require a sincere search for bridges of dialogue between supporters of Biden and President Donald Trump.

The article identifies one such starting point, voiced by “a Republican woman” in Nevada. Worried about the distrust by Republicans of the electoral system, she said she believes that there might be “lots of things that can be improved in the (electoral) system so that people felt more confident.”

This is an idea that both sides can discuss together and reach agreement on: How can Republicans and Democrats work with each other to build an election system we all trust?

Try it out. Find someone who disagrees with you politically. Ask them: What will an election system built on mutual trust look like to you?

I am betting that you will be surprised by how much you agree with one another, and then comforted by the bridge of dialogue you have constructed together.

JACK SHEPHERD

Norwich

Voting procedures must be improved

We have learned some lessons from the election just passed. Some changes in voting procedures may well be needed.

One thing has to be kept in mind: The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 4) assigns election law powers to the state legislatures, although Congress may step in if needed. Only the state legislatures or Congress can change voting laws. Various secretaries of state and judges cannot change the law. This was one reason the election of 2000 ended up in a mess in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court kept trying to extend the time for recounts, even though the law set specific hard dates that had to be met. The U.S. Supreme Court was forced to slap it down twice on that issue.

If we are going to continue with mail-in voting, procedures need to be tightened up. For one thing, there must be a specific cut-off for mailed ballots to count. The easiest would be at the end of regular voting. Any ballots received after the polls are closed are null and void. There is a period of several weeks before Election Day to get mail ballots in. Next, regular purging of voter rolls to eliminate the dead and those who have moved. In addition, if any ballot comes back marked “undeliverable,” “no such person,” “moved — left no forwarding address,” or something similar, that listing is purged from the rolls.

In-person voting should be encouraged. The coronavirus pandemic is a fluke occurrence. We also need to put in place a system of voter ID. One case of voter fraud is too many.

Some states made things work right. Florida and Texas — both large states with large populations — had results shortly after voting ended while other states are still struggling a week after. Florida and Texas might be worth emulating.

PATRICK O’CONNOR

Weathersfield

Voting is America’s founding principle

In America, voters pick their leaders. Leaders don’t pick their voters, or how many ballots are counted in one state or another. This principle is foundational to American democracy.

Trust in this foundational principle led Americans to vote in record numbers. Despite challenges created by the pandemic, reduced early voting options and limited mail-in ballot drop boxes, they made their voices heard.

Local election officials, who live in the communities where their neighbors voted, have upheld this principle. They’ve assured that every ballot was checked, counted and verified so that the final results can be certified. By now the count has clearly shown the will of the people. They have chosen to move forward with Joe Biden as the next president.

Donald Trump knows this but his ego and his desire to protect his “brand” as someone who never loses has prompted him to make baseless accusations of a rigged election and voter fraud and to file lawsuits with no evidence to support them. These suits are being thrown out or have failed, officials of both parties in every state say that there were no serious problems, and Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security called this “the most secure election in American history.”

Now it’s time for Republican members of Congress to uphold this fundamental principle, too. In record numbers, Americans have chosen a new leader. Recognizing their choice is much more important than assuaging Trump’s ego or protecting his brand. It’s essential to maintaining the trust in democracy voters have shown by casting their ballots. GOP politicians should model what we all need to do: come together to ensure the will of the people prevails and Biden is sworn in as president.

STEVE GEHLERT

West Newbury, Vt.

NH absentee ballot system worked

Voting by mail is under attack across our nation, and in New Hampshire the recently expanded absentee voting option is essentially dead. The legislation passed by New Hampshire’s Democratic Legislature to expand mail-in ballot options in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has now expired, and the new Republican Legislature is unlikely to resurrect that voting option in the future. Voter suppression will continue to be the Republican game plan on this issue and on other issues, such as district gerrymandering.

Of the 814,041 votes cast on Nov. 3 in New Hampshire, 260,992, or 32%, were cast by absentee ballot, shattering records. These ballots were cast by Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters in all walks of life, but particularly among older and disabled voters, most of whom were protecting their health by voting by mail.

New Hampshire’s absentee ballot system is one of the most restrictive in the country. Accusations of widespread abuse of this system not only show ignorance, but also insult the integrity of our friends and neighbors who are poll workers verifying and counting those ballots. Our absentee ballot system worked just as it should have and helped hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire citizens to vote safely and to exercise voting rights granted by both the New Hampshire and U.S. constitutions.

Voting in a democracy is a privilege that we should treasure; it is also an obligation that we should encourage and facilitate. Let all votes be counted and let all voters vote.

Thanks to our poll workers who so valiantly managed the heavy turnout of those voters who exercised their right to vote both in the voting booth and through the mail.

BILL SECORD

West Lebanon

Rally around our new president

I strongly disagreed with President Donald Trump when he said his response to COVID-19 was perfect and, on a scale of 1 to 10, he’d give himself a 10. I now see that he was correct.

His response to COVID-19 was perfect, in that it was the main factor in his resounding defeat.

Now it is time for us as a nation to rally around President-elect Joe Biden. He will need the support of all of us, just as FDR did when he assumed the presidency during the Great Depression. We survived those difficult times and ended up as a world power that helped heal the war-ravaged world after the conclusion of World War II. Two of our bitter enemies, Germany and Japan, became powerful allies. Germany, split in two by the victors, became one nation again in 1990 after President Ronald Reagan said: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

I agree it is time to “make America great again,” but we need a different plan than what soon-to-be ex-President Trump proposed. Let’s try to tear down the walls that divide us. This New Year’s Day will be one of the best for me as I look forward to fewer tweets and more thoughtful actions.

PAUL KNOX

Bradford, Vt.




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