Dixville Notch, NH is famous for being the first community in the U.S. to announce its election results. What was the result in 2012?
As I was wrapping up my Monday night, preparing for a long Election Day ahead, I turned on the TV to catch up on the latest news and was shocked with what was on the screen – how were they already announcing election results?
Dixville Notch, an unincorporated village with a population of twelve located in very northern New Hampshire, has a tradition of being the first in the nation to announce election results. The vote is taken at midnight when all the eligible voters in the town — ten people total — gather in the town ballroom at The Balsams Hotel and cast their ballots, each in their own individual voting box.
The polls officially close one minute after the voting concludes (this year only lasted 43 seconds), taking advantage of the fact that New Hampshire law allows a precinct to close as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots. The results are immediately broadcast around the country, often leading the morning news cycle on Election Day.
The middle-of-the-night voting ritual is done for both the New Hampshire primaries and general elections, and is best known for the latter of the two.
This tradition of being the first to vote began in 1960 with the Kennedy-Nixon election and has since been able to boast 100% voter turnout, making it one of few locations in the nation to do so. Neil Tillotson was the founder of this voting ritual and as the town moderator, he was always the first voter until he passed away in 2001 at the age of 102. He had been fascinated with politics since seeing Teddy Roosevelt give a speech in Vermont. Years later he put Dixville on the map and engrained it in politicians’ minds by establishing the Dixville Notch voting tradition.
However, this unique honor comes with competition. A handful of other small communities in New Hampshire have tried to steal the distinction. The second-best known is Hart’s Location, which actually began their late night voting in 1948, twelve years before Dixville, but discontinued it in 1960 citing too much media attention. Hart’s did come back in 1996 for another midnight vote, but ultimately the title goes to Dixville for now. These days, the two are usually announced simultaneously.
While these results are exciting and well-publicized, they are not always correct. In their inaugural vote of 1960, they had Nixon winning the presidency by a vote of 9-0 and in 1992 had Bush winning by 15-2 against Clinton. However, they nailed it in 2008 with a 15-6 vote in favor of the standing President Obama and correctly determined Romney in the 2012 New Hampshire Republican primary.
This year the vote came in at a dead heat between Obama and Romney each collecting five votes, a first for the Dixville Notch residents. It Hart’s Location, the vote came out as a clear win for Obama with a 23-9 lead over Romney. As nearly every news organization has reported, if there is one thing we can gather from these midnight results, it’s that we are all in for a long – and historic – night.