Milford High Constitution team talks with Gov. Hassan

MILFORD – If anyone needed to be reminded that Milford High School is a state leader in producing civic-minded graduates, the evidence was in the school library last week.

Gov. Maggie Hassan presented members of the state champion We the People Constitution Team with certificates, and three of the staff members who accompanied her – Amber Barbagallo, Paxton Delano and Jillian Joyce – are Milford High graduates and Constitution team members.

Under the coaching of David Alcox, teams from the high school have won the state contest 13 times in 17 years, including this year, and the team will go to Washington next month for the national competition.

Last week the governor sat down with team members and an English class and talked with them about civic responsibility and divisive politics, and she noted how easy it is to make negative comments through social media.

Years ago lawmakers who served in Washington lived in Washington and saw each other socially, which had a modulating effect on their political interactions, she said, And “it’s a problem we have with social media. We dehumanize people when we never interact” in person.

Alcox noted that the local elections on March 10 brought only about 21 percent of Milford’s registered voters to the polls, and asked the governor how important it is to motivate people to vote.

After you have seen how so many people around the world are unable to vote and what the consequences are you appreciated our democracy, she said.

Several team members voted for the first time last week and they asked about making voting mandatory, one said Australia has a fining system, which results in a high turnout.

But Hassan said that for her, the idea of mandating voting conflicts with her notion of the First Amendment.

Kayla Bullwinkle asked about mandatory civic education, and the governor said she supported it as part of state-wide curriculum requirements in a bill that’s making its way through the Legislature.

Part of the low voter turnout problem, she said, are long, complicated ballots that can make people feel overwhelmed. Women, especially tend to think they shouldn’t vote unless they are fully informed.

“We need to help people and give them the confidence to sort through all the information out there.”

The team will travel to Washington D.C. April 24-27 for the national competition and they are raising money for travel. Anyone who wants to help can send a check to “We the People,” Milford High School, 100 West St., Milford, NH 03055.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.