At midnight on a yet-to-be chosen Tuesday early next year, the roughly 40 residents of New Hampshire’s smallest town will pack into a small log building off the main road to cast some of the first votes in the race for the White House. Hart’s Location is one of three tiny communities nestled in the White Mountains where people cast the first votes in the first U.S. presidential nominating primary every four years. Midnight voting is one of the quirkier traditions of New Hampshire’s 100-year-old primary, and not a terribly accurate gauge of which candidates will win their parties’ nominations. The winners of the statewide Republican and Democratic primaries have gone on to clinch the nominations in 11 of 14 races, excluding challenges to an incumbent president, over the past four decades. The success rate is just three out of seven for the top vote-getters in Hart’s Location and nine out of 14 in Dixville Notch, near the Canadian border. But for the residents of these flinty towns, the point is turnout.
State law allows towns, or unincorporated communities like Dixville Notch and Millsfield, to open their polls at midnight and close them shortly after only if they can prove that everyone who wanted to vote was able to.
“The relevancy is 100 percent participation, and I challenge any town in the nation to match that,” said Mark Dindorf, who chairs the Hart’s Location Board of Selectmen. “I wish more towns would, wish more towns could, vote in this way because the more people who get out and participate, the truer our democracy is.”