As the world waits with bated breath for the results of Tuesday’s contentious presidential election, its eyes turned briefly to three sleepy hamlets in rural New Hampshire, as their residents — less than 100 total — became the first in the nation to cast their ballots.
According to New Hampshire law, communities with less than 100 voters can open their polls at midnight and close them as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots.
The best known of these three towns, Dixville Notch has been voting at midnight every election since 1960. Neil Tillotson, the former owner of the Balsams Grant Resort Hotel, which closed in 2011, started midnight voting in Dixville in 1960 to stir up publicity for the resort. Almost all of the Dixville voters are employees of the resort .
This could be Dixville’s last year in the election spotlight, however. Les Otten, a New England businessman, bought the Balsams and plans to redevelop it into a massive ski resort. That could bring the population in Dixville over 100 people, thereby ending its midnight voting tradition.
Hart’s Location was the first town to begin the tradition of early voting in 1948. According to the town’s website, it started when the town was “inhabited mostly by Maine Central Railroad workers and their families” and early voting became the most convenient way for them to vote. The practice apparently garnered too much media attention for the folks of Hart’s Landing, however, and midnight voting was abandoned in 1964, “when residents became tired of all the media ruckus and voted to end it.”
Hart’s Landing revived the practice in 1996. The town website blames the 32-year lull in midnight voting as the reason Dixville Notch gets all the attention, even though Dixville began the practice more than a decade later than Hart’s Landing.
Millsfield, located just over 12 miles down the road from Dixville Notch, is the newest town to get in on the act. Millsfield began midnight voting as early as 1952 (no one seems certain exactly when) and stopped the practice in the 1960s (again, no one seems certain exactly when). The town was invited to take the tradition back up last year by New Hampshire’s secretary of State, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary.
When each state in America closes their polling, times converted to Eastern. By Janet Loehrke and Ramon Padilla, USA TODAY. USA TODAY
“It’s important for us to revisit history that has been forgotten by most people,” Wayne Urso, the Millsfield election official who is spearheading the midnight vote told Medill News Service.
Don’t read too much into the results from these towns. They lean conservative and normally vote Republican. Dixville voted for the Republican in every election since 1960 — including Barry Goldwater who lost in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson — until going for Obama in 2008, and splitting the vote between Romney and Obama in 2012.
Since reviving midnight voting, Hart’s Landing voted for Dole in 1996, Bush in 2000 and 2004, and Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Dixville has predicted every Republican nominee since 1968 (counting ties in 1980 and 2012), but that streak came to a crashing halt when Donald Trump walked into town as John Kasich edged out the future nominee 3-2.