DURHAM — With the first round of Democratic presidential debates in the rearview mirror, America’s focus is slowly beginning to narrow on New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary election.

As candidates continue to crisscross the state, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is training a volunteer force of 150 voters and counting to press Democratic presidential hopefuls on their positions on a multitude of civil liberties issues, including immigration rights, criminal justice reform, voting rights and LGBTQ rights as part of its Rights for All campaign, organizer Dan Pontoh said. The effort is being done in coordination with other ACLU chapters in other early primary states, like Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada to magnify the number of voter-candidate interactions to get them on the record about their civil rights agenda.

“Oftentimes, when candidates come to New Hampshire they talk about the economy, health care, the environment, which are all really important, but not often are they talking about key civil liberties issues,” Pontoh said during a training session at the University of New Hampshire Tuesday night. “We’re really hoping to activate residents of New Hampshire to be more engaged in the political process.”

Pontoh said ACLU-NH volunteers are being trained to conduct direct candidate engagement, better known as “bird-dogging,” by attending candidates’ public events and attempting to ask policy-specific, yes or no questions to the candidate during question and answer segments or handshake and photo opportunities. He said the aim of the bird-dogging effort is to have another partner volunteer video record the interaction and send it to the ACLU for wider distribution so voters can make informed decisions about candidates’ stances.

Jeanne Hruska, political director of ACLU-NH, said even with eight months before the New Hampshire primary, ACLU volunteers have already seen success getting commitments from U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to support adding a third non-binary gender marker on national IDs, such as passports. She said the issue of a third gender marker was not on presidential candidates’ collective consciousness until ACLU volunteers in New Hampshire began questioning them about it.

“The national attention surrounding a third gender marker started right here in New Hampshire when ACLU voters asked Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris if they would support such third markers on passports – and since then, they’ve asked many more,” Hruska said. “This was not an issue that candidates were talking about until ACLU voters started asking the question. ACLU voters are asking questions with specific commitments or policy plans, and even if a candidate isn’t fully versed on a particular topic, just asking them the first time can spark awareness of and commitment to an issue.”

Hruska said the Rights for All campaign has defined specific policy goals for whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination, such as committing to reduce mass incarceration by 50%, repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal dollars from funding abortions, and reducing the number of immigrants detained in federal custody by 75%.

“There have been many candidates who have made these commitments. We’ve also seen candidates strengthen their commitments to civil rights as more voters engage them on these issues,” Hruska said. “One example is Customs and Border Protection’s jurisdiction, which includes all of New Hampshire. ACLU voters are asking candidates to commit to shrinking CBP’s jurisdiction to 25 miles, rather than 100 miles, from any border.”

ACLU volunteers Stacy Brown and Tori Leavitt attended Pontoh’s direct candidate engagement training Tuesday night. Brown said her primary civil rights concerns are immigration justice and upholding voting rights.

“Without voting rights, all the other civil liberties can be taken away,” said Brown, of Newmarket.

Brown said the top two candidates she is currently considering supporting in the primary are Harris and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, but also said she was interested in President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

“I’ve definitely moved with Elizabeth Warren because she has a plan for that, right? I’ve moved towards her more because she gives specific answers and her stances on civil liberty issues,” Brown said.

Leavitt said she is most concerned with criminal justice reform issues. She said she is considering supporting either Warren or U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

“I like Bernie Sanders because he is consistent. When you look at his record and the questions that he keeps getting asked repeatedly, he seems to have stayed pretty steady, so I think that consistency is critical with such a big candidate field,” said Leavitt, of Barrington. “A lot of people in our area are very aware of the focus on our state during the primaries and we appreciate all the candidates coming. It gives us all an opportunity to ask candidates these questions, but we need more people to ask questions to help us all differentiate between the large number of people running.”