Tom Tillotson lives beside a closed-down ski mountain in a town that doesn’t exist. He doesn’t miss the chairlift that used to be out back. He has strong legs and likes hiking the slopes. And he doesn’t really miss the people who used to vacation at his late father’s hotel — the now-crumbling Balsams Resort. His three Labradors and his wife are company enough. He does, however, miss the visits from presidential candidates. “They don’t call anymore,” Tillotson said in the reclaimed barn he calls his home. He’s stocky, with a strawberry-shaped nose and flat light brown hair that rests like an A-frame house atop his head. “They used to come by all the time, but that’s just not happening now.”
For 50 years, they came. They left the interstate, drove the winding state road three hours north of where most people live into the piney woods, past blueberry fields and through the jagged granite cliff faces known as Dixville Notch.
Dixville was always too small to be recognized as an actual town, but like a political version of Brigadoon, it appeared every four years. This was home to the midnight voters, the 20-some-odd folks who gathered at the Balsams to cast the first ballots in the nation. Polls closed by 12:07 a.m., ensuring that the results and the funny dateline would appear the day after primaries and election days in newspapers throughout the country. In a state that has enjoyed an outsize role in the elections simply by sprinting to the voting booths before anyone else, this was peak New Hampshire.