It was ultra-democratic, and quite charming. There would be the occasional vote for Moby Dick or Oliver Twist (rather doubtful), and confusing votes for "Narnia," "Babysitter's Club," or "Sweet Valley" that were difficult to assign. But every kid could vote for whatever he damn well pleased, unlike other states, which often gave their awards on the basis of committees of adults. Heck, you've got the Newbery for that. Hundreds of titles got a mention, having one last day of minor fame before gradually slipping beneath the waves.
Either one year or two after Tracy stopped doing it, the format changed to a short list of newer books that the children could choose from. This struck me as great loss for independence of thought.
New Hampshire is one of the few places that still has town meeting, though fewer every year. That also is ultra-democratic, in which any citizen can get up and address his fellow townspeople about issues of concern to them all.
The Hew Hampshire presidential primary every four years used to have all manner of candidates. When I was in high school, a Hawaiian king and his multiple wives (in odd-fitting grass skirts) came to speak at one of our assemblies, Harold Stassen had a perpetual candidacy, and all manner of crusaders, manics, and reformers came through. I think it is technically still true that a very low number of signatures and a nominal fee can get you on the ballot, but the change in media culture makes it less likely they will spend much time here. They can reach more people with a website and test the waters that way.
Are we seeing a common thread here? I have lauded this approach and my state's culture in the past, referencing it as one of the last places where democracy/independence/eccentricity still functions. Yet looking at the results, I'm not sure the old ways are the best ways. In the era that students could vote for whatever book they wanted, Judy Blume won eight years out of ten, with Superfudge winning five years in a row. Any system which creates that result should be scrapped - especially if it's Judy Blume we're talking about here. More choice has led to less choice. As for this year's winner, I have no doubt that the dog dies in the end.
Considering town meeting, we always imagine it will be like this
Having been to my share, let me assure you that it's more like this.
As for the primary, I'm not sure that seeing either the Hawaiian king or Harold Stassen provided much value-added. I suppose there was some advantage to the mere illustration Yes it's true. Anyone can run for president here. It's a good thought to know in the back of one's mind.