First In the Nation to Vote
How and when did this midnight voting happen?
First in the nation voting began in 1952 in Hart’s Location. New Hampshire law allows towns with fewer than 100 residents to open the polls at midnight and close them as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots. Hart’s Location is one of the few New Hampshire communities along with Dixville Notch, that meet these requirement. These two have been the first to cast their votes for the primary and general election during each presidential election year. This year Millsfield, New Hampshire, another northern New Hampshire community, is going to enter the ring.
The tradition began in 1948 when the township was inhabited mostly by Maine Central Railroad workers and their families. Early voting started to accommodate the railroad workers living in town. This was the most convenient time for the best voter turnout. The midnight voting practice that began in 1952 continued until after the 1964 election when residents became tired of all the media ruckus and voted to end it. It was revived in 1996, Just more than thirty years later led by the efforts of then new Notchland Inn innkeepers Les Schoof and Ed Butler. Primary and general election voting was held at Notchland before moving in 2008 to the town hall, once a former Appalachian Mountain Club’s hostel building.
The Hart’s Location midnight voting tradition, which began in 1948, actually predates the more widely known Dixville Notch practice; however, Dixville Notch generally receives greater publicity because Hart’s Location discontinued the practice in 1964 only to reinstate it in 1996. The Balsams gained national attention when the media searched for better communications. Facilities are limited in Hart’s Location and today, cell service is limited. Journalists need a means to connect with their newsroom. Dixville Notch was a great solution with ample accommodations available at The Balsams along with their own phone company to solve the connection issue.
More fun facts about Hart’s Location’s status as the first town to begin midnight voting according to January, 2016 Boston Globe story –
- It is the state’s smallest town.
- Population was 12 at time of first census in 1790.
- In 2012, Mitt Romney edged out Ron Paul among GOP primary voters 5 to 4.
- In the 2012 general election, voters went for President Obama over Romney, 23 to 9.
- The town got a nod from the popular “West Wing” TV show in 2002 in an episode called “Hartsfield’s Landing”.
- A less than fun fact: A fatal landslide in 19th-century Hart’s Location was the inspiration for a story called “The Ambitious Guest” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- Washington Post – 2/9/2016
Sanders rules New Hampshire midnight voting
- Agency EFE – 2/9/2016
Spanish news agency – The smallest town in New Hampshire crowns Sanders and Kasich
- ABC News – 2/3/2016
Meet the Voters Who Will Cast the First Primary Ballots of 2016
- Today Show – 02/7/2016
The small town in New Hampshire looking for some electoral respect
- CNN – 02/2016
The effort to save New Hampshire’s midnight vote
- Washington Post – 01/2016
A look at New Hampshire’s midnight voters
- Conway Daily Sun – 01/2016
Voting Early in Trio of Midnight Voting Towns
- Yankee Magazine – 01/2016
Race to the Ballot Box in New Hampshire
- Reuters – 10/2015
Tiny New Hampshire communities guard midnight voting tradition
- NBC News – 11/2004
NH mountain hamlets cast first votes