Free Staters see member boom
|Title:||Free Staters see member boom|
Free Staters see member boom
by Albert McKeon Telegraph Staff 07/09/03
They're less than 600 John Hancocks shy of starting a movement.
The Free State Project - a group that hopes to make a U.S. state into a free society - claims it now has about 4,440 members, and expects to reach the 5,000-member mark by next month.
Hitting that goal would realize a dream for many Free State members. At that point, members would choose one of 10 states from a list that includes New Hampshire, aiming to find a state that would make an ideal home for a "sphere of liberty."
It's a goal that longtime members never thought would be reached this quickly, but now that it's almost within sight, they are hopeful that 15,000 more people will sign on just as fast. Then, the 20,000 members would move to the chosen state and attempt to establish a libertarian society.
"When I first got involved, 18 months ago, we were thinking years," Michelle Dumas, a Free State Project media coordinator, said of the 5,000-member goal.
Because of rapid growth, the group has set an August target date to take part in the vote, Dumas said. Potential members must sign up by Aug. 15, and members will have until Sept. 8 to return their ballots, Dumas said. The chosen state will be announced Sept. 15.
If the group does not sign up 5,000 members by next month, then those deadlines will be extended, Dumas said. But because of steady growth, the group feels confident it will hit that mark by Aug. 15, she said.
The project has not yet decided how it will make its mark in its chosen state. It could join an existing Libertarian Party, or forge an alliance with conservative Republicans. Some hope the project can be a political party in itself.
The project would aim to cut the size and scope of state government by two-thirds. Group members say they do not want to secede from the United States, or pit themselves against the federal government.
New Hampshire still places high on the project's wish list of 10 desirable states, Dumas said. The others are Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Idaho, Alaska and Wyoming.
Many members like the Granite State because it has inherent qualities that are consistent with the group's ideals of limited government and individual liberties, Dumas said. Members approve of Gov. Craig Benson's recent budget veto, and he has, in turn, been welcoming to the group, she said.
People from 22 states visited New Hampshire last month when the Free State Project held a weekend getaway in Lancaster, Dumas said.
Once a state is chosen, the group will wait to attract 20,000 members before initiating a mass move to that state. But if New Hampshire is selected, many members have expressed an interest in moving to the state much sooner, Dumas said.
Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832.
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