Free State membership may lose 700
|Title:||Free State membership may lose 700|
Free State membership may lose 700
by Kate McCann Associated Press Writer 10/08/03
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The Free State Project may have lost more than 700 members since New Hampshire was voted the "chosen state" last week.
The project aims to bring 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire by 2006. As a group, they hope to reduce the role of government in people's lives by rolling back taxes, eliminating drug laws and gun restrictions and privatizing education.
While losing 700 is substantial for an organization that only has 5,000 members, it is nothing to be alarmed about, project founder Jason Sorens said.
Before voting began in late August, members were allowed to opt-out from one to nine finalist states. Finalists were New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, South Dakota and North Dakota.
South Carolina computer technician Robert Hawes opted out because he thought New Hampshire's population and legislature were too large to influence.
Hawes, 30, also was concerned about the politics of neighboring states, like Massachusetts and Maine, where labor unions are pushing a prescription drug program.
"These states aren't moving in very liberty-friendly directions," he said. "And Massachusetts doesn't rank high on anyone's list."
Hawes said he still supports the project and may change his mind, but for now he will watch and judge New England's reaction from his home in Lexington.
"Not to say they're snobbish, but they have a very centralized view of themselves," he said. "I'm really not sure they would be that receptive, especially to a Southerner like me."
One thousand members said they would not move to New Hampshire, but board members are hopeful they changed their mind since the vote.
"A lot of them are from the West coast area. Some are just people that, say, live in Maryland and only wanted to move to Delaware," Sorens said. "We didn't want to count on them being members until we actually talked to them."
A mailing will be sent in the next week or two to members who "opted out" of New Hampshire to see if their decision stands. Leaders will remind them of the state's low tax burden, local support for the libertarians, and its range of living environments.
Meanwhile, the Free State board is keeping an eye on Wyoming project members who are trying to form their own free state.
Elizabeth McKinstry, vice president of the Free State, said a western state would be great in the future but this is not the time to breakaway and divide their 4,800 members.
"Right now, we have to concentrate our numbers. We feel confident the people who made the commitment to move to New Hampshire will do so," she said.
Wyoming came in second to New Hampshire.
The loss aside, members are encouraged by 300 recruits who signed on last week. Leaders credit the surge to publicity they received after the New Hampshire announcement.
An August poll of 140 project members showed more than half believe they will move in the next two years, according to www.freestateproject.com. Just under 30 percent said they would move after membership reaches 20,000 and 20 percent said they would wait two to five years after that.
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