Equal Citizens Democracy Town Hall w/ Sen. Bernie Sanders in Concord, New Hampshire

By Arnav Harve, Guest Writer from Class IV

The auditorium is packed to the brim, with many people waiting in eager anticipation for the main headliner of tonight’s event. Reporters sweep through the crowd, interviewing dozens of spectators and gauging their opinions on a number of issues. Finally, at 6PM on the dot, Sen. Bernie Sanders walks onto the stage; the crowd responds with a resounding standing ovation.

That was the first of many applauses that the eager audience would produce at the December 28, 2019 Democracy Town Hall hosted by Equal Citizens, a non-profit group that encourages civic responsibility, in New Hampshire. With many other Democratic hopefuls participating in similar Equal Citizens town halls over the next few months, the goal of the events is for the voters to gauge the candidate’s views on topics related to the state of democracy in the United States.

Sanders had much to say about that issue that night. The town hall was moderated by activists Lawrence Lessig and Zephyr Teachout, both professors of law and very knowledgeable on the event’s subject. First, the Senator began with an impassioned speech about the corruption of campaign financing. He expressed worry over the fact that super PACs, political action committees that donate huge sums of money in support of favored candidates, wield immense power over elections and campaigns. Next, via a prompt from the moderators, Sanders described, in his opinion, the absurdity of the electoral college. He argued that the system disproportionately throws the attention of town halls and money to swing states. He concluded that it was necessary to abolish the electoral college because it “ignores the needs of thirty states.”

The rest of the event also centered around the value of democracy and the process by which it occurs. Sanders expressed disdain for the process of gerrymandering (the manipulation of districts to maximize a certain result in an election) as well as the voting process in America; he claims that “in many elections, we vote for the lesser of two evils.” Sanders believes in a system called ranked-choice voting, in which citizens rank their top choices for a given office; this, he believes, will prevent people from voting only for those who have high polling. In addition, he touched upon the idea of democracy vouchers, or money given by the government that citizens can use to finance the candidates they support. Sanders believes that this will encourage the public to vote and make it easier for non-billionaire candidates to finance their campaigns.

After answering some audience questions, Sanders ended the event with another resounding applause from the audience. After the town hall, audience members had varying thoughts on Sen. Sanders’ performance. Cindy R. voted for Sanders in 2016, and believes that he has most of the qualities she is looking for in a presidential candidate. “He’s certainly a viable candidate...I feel very positive about him,” she said. Another audience member, Chet, came all the way from Andover, MA; he thought that the town hall was terrific, especially because it was a more focused event and went deep into different policies.

New Hampshire citizens spoke when they voted for Sen. Sanders in the Democratic primary. Now, much of the rest of the country will get their chance on "Super Tuesday," or March 3rd, 2020.

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