Are you voting for the first time? Not sure where to start? This voter guide can help start your research and get you a little more prepared for the polls on March 8th!
Voting can be a great way to get your voice heard and be a part of the community. If you’re voting for the first time you might be feeling excited or even a little intimidated. This year, especially in Durham, the vote has been anticipated by many. Not only will there be voting on the typical town and district positions and budgets, but there will also be the addition of Article 2 on the Durham ballot.
Elise Wollheim recently turned 18 and is looking forward to the vote. She said, “it’s important to vote because every vote matters, especially in a small town election. This could be down to like 10 votes and so I think it’s very important that everybody makes their voice heard no matter which side they’re on.”
Durham Town Clerk, Lorrie Pitt, described the requirements and how to register to vote. “You have to be 18, you have to be a [U.S.] citizen, and you have to actually have proof that you live in the town in order to register to vote.” She continued, “there is a period of time before an election that you can register to vote so that you will be on our voter checklist. If [someone] missed that deadline [but] still wanted to register and vote they could, but they would have to register at the polls the day of election.” So here is your before election checklist!
- Register! Either beforehand or at the polls!
- Find your polling place! Durham: ORHS from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm! Lee: Public Safety Complex from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm! Madbury: Madbury Town Hall from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm!
- Bring your identification! The town of Durham website on the town clerk/tax collector page suggests “a driver/non-driver ID for identity and age” and then if you are registering, “a bill, bank statement, or lease for residency and a birth certificate or passport for citizenship.”
- Vote! Go fill in the bubbles and exercise your right to vote!
Article 2: I’ll cut right to the chase with the biggest item on the ballot this year. You’ve probably seen signs around saying “vote no on 2!” or “vote yes on 2!” This article will only be on the Durham ballot and is about the fate of the Mill Pond dam. It says, “shall the town reverse the action of the Town Council taken on November 1, 2021 to remove the Mill Pond dam?” In September 2021, the Town Council voted 7-2 to remove the dam. After this decision was made many Durham residents created a petition aimed to save the dam which gathered enough signatures to lead to this vote.
While you’re in the booth the most important thing you need to know is that a vote for ‘no’ is to stick with the decision of removal and a vote for ‘yes’ is a vote for reconsideration. Voting ‘yes’ does not mean the dam is automatically saved, but it does mean that there will be more deliberation before making the final decision.
Wollheim is most looking forward to voting for Article 2 because it is something she has been surrounded by for the last few months and she is very passionate about it. She already knows which way she will be voting and said, “I have my opinions and as much as I wish that everybody shared those opinions, I know that they don’t… Regardless of your opinion it’s important to voice it.”
To learn more about each side of the argument you can visit the Save the Mill Pond dam website (vote yes) and the Free the Oyster River website (vote no) and the article in our Fall 2021 issue of MOR called “The Damn Dam” by Evy Ashburner.
The ORCSD ballot will be in all three towns, Durham, Lee and Madbury at each voting site. There are two positions, school board members and school board moderator, to be voted on as well as the budget articles.
This year two at-large school board members, Al Howland and Tom Newkirk, are stepping down meaning that there is space for two new members. An at-large school board member can be anyone from any of the three towns that make up ORCSD. This year there are no incumbents which is an interesting twist putting everyone on a relatively level playing field. Here are the five candidates running and a bit about each of them:
Matt Bacon (Madbury)
Bacon has five students in the district and has volunteered on PTO as well as several other committees. His goal is to give a positive educational experience to every student and he values communication. At the ORCSD Candidates night he said how feels that his people-skills and ability to connect with people would make him suitable for the school board. To read more about his stance you can refer to his campaign page Matt Bacon – Oyster River School Board on Facebook.
Marie D’Agostino (Lee)
D’Agostino has lived in the district for 16 years and has 3 kids and 7 grandkids. She has previous experience being a member of the Newmarket school board and worked as a business administrator in Somersworth and Kingston. At the ORCSD candidates night she described her goal as a school board member being to continue a positive atmosphere and trust in the district.
Giana Gelsey (Madbury)
Gelsey has a fourth grader and a seventh grader in the district. She values public education and said at the ORCSD candidates night that she would do her best to listen to everybody and continue the district’s reputation for excellence. She has served on the PTO at Moharimet elementary school and other organizations. More information can be found on her campaign page Giana Gelsey – Oyster River School Board on Facebook.
Debbie Harmon (Lee)
Harmon has lived in the district for 21 years and has a sophomore in district as well as two graduated students. She has experience volunteering in the community, coordinating events and has worked as both a travel agent and a flight attendant. At the ORCSD candidates night she shared how her experience as a flight attendant has led her to working in many situations and makes her a good problem solver. You can read more about her campaign on her Facebook page Debbie Harmon – Oyster River School Board Candidate.
Heather Smith (Durham)
Smith has a first grader and a fifth grader in the district. She is a water engineer along with being involved in many clubs, community groups, and an ORCSD committee. She wants to join the school board to help guide the work which the district is doing. She said at the ORCSD candidate night, “we have great things and we’re doing great things.” She wants to join the school board to keep that going. You can read more information about her on her campaign page Heather Smith – Candidate for Oyster River School Board on Facebook.
To read more in-depth about each candidate you can visit the ORCSD Candidate Bios, the Foster’s Daily Democrat article Oyster River school district voting guide: All 5 School Board candidates share views here and the Candidate’s Night video.
Budget: The next part of the ORCSD ballot are four articles about the district’s budget. On the ballot each article has the school board recommendation. These recommendations can be found at the end of the article in italics. A notable article is article 5 which proposes an increase in salary and benefits for para-educators in the district. More specific information about each budget article can be found on the sample ballot.
For the purposes of this article only the Durham ballot will be highlighted because there were no samples of the Lee or Madbury ballots. Most information is still relevant and helpful to any voter though!
The positions which will be voted on for the Durham ballot will be Town Councilor, Public Library Trustee (one-year term), Public Library Trustee (three-year term), Town Moderator, Supervisor of the Checklist, and Trustee of the Trust Funds. If you don’t know what these mean or what these people do, you are not alone! Here is some information on them to get you started!
Town Councilor: This year there are six candidates running for three open positions on Town Council. The Town of Durham website under the ‘inside town hall’ and ‘town council’ tabs described what they do: “the Town Council approves all ordinances, resolutions, policies, and the yearly budget. The Town Council also appoints people to the various Boards and Committees.” The candidates running are Nicholas B. Germain, Eric Lund, Song Palmese, Joe Friedman, Larry Harris, and Eleanor Lonske. None are incumbents which means they are all running for the first time. You can find bios about each candidate in the Foster’s Daily Democrat article Durham NH 2022 election voters guide: Town Council candidates profiles, Mill Pond dam.
Public Library Trustee: The Durham Public Library has a Board of Trustees made up of the people who are elected as Public Library Trustees. The Durham Public Library website under the ‘about the library’ and ‘Board of Trustees’ tabs described the board: “The Board hires the Library Director and Library staff, adopts policies to govern the Library’s operation, and advocates for adequate financial support of the Library. It controls all funds provided to the Library and determines how they will be spent.” You might be confused at first glance in the voting booth since the Public Library Trustee is on the ballot twice (don’t worry it’s not a typo). There is a one-year term and a three-year term position. Nancy Lambert is the only candidate running for the one-year term position. Andrew Sharp, Erik Waddell, and Charlotte C. Ramsay are running for the three available spots of the three-year term.
Trustee of the Trust Funds: The Town of Durham website under the ‘inside town hall tab,’ ‘other boards, businesses, committees, and commissions,’ and ‘trustees of the trust fund’ tabs, explains the Trustee of the Trust Funds as the people who “invest and disburse funds in the Town’s trusts and reserve accounts, and help manage several town properties.” This year Craig Seymour is running as the incumbent against Tom Bebbington. Trust me, you’ll be glad you know all of this now.
Town Moderator: The Town Moderator moderates town meetings. The current Town Moderator is Christopher Regan and he is the only person running this year. To read more about him you can visit his profile on the town of Durham website.
Supervisor of the Checklist: In Durham there are three Supervisors of the Checklist. They have staggered six year terms and this year Deborah Hirsch Mayer’s term is up. She is running again and is the only candidate running. The Supervisors of the Checklist manage voter information and you might see some Supervisors of the Checklist at the election since they help with registration, set up, and more!
I hope that this simple voting guide has helped you start your research and that you feel more ready for the upcoming vote. Wollheim said, “I feel like being a young person it’s hard to know what you stand for. You’re still finding yourself so it might be hard to make decisions for the rest of the community or the rest of the state.” She continued, “I think it’s important to do your research and find out what you stand for because that’s really important and will help guide you throughout the rest of your life.”