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The Town That Votes Together

Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, Speaks First in Presidential Election

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Ballot Room - The Balsams Dixville Notch

The first presidential election votes in the nation are traditionally cast in the Ballot Room at The Balsams, but voting was relocated in 2012 due to construction work at the fabled hotel.

© 2002 Kim Knox Beckius
Updated November 06, 2012
At precisely midnight on November 6, 2012, every registered voter in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, will cast a vote in the nation's 2012 presidential election. Within moments after midnight, the polls will be declared closed. You see, state election law allows New Hampshire communities to shut down polling as soon as all eligible voters have cast ballots.

How can Dixville Notch guarantee that all voters will be present and accounted for at the stroke of midnight? Well, for starters, there are only 10 of them. More importantly, Dixville Notch's status as the "First in the Nation" to voice its preference for a presidential candidate in both the primary and the general election has been a cherished community tradition since 1960.

The Granite State has always embraced the democratic process. Since 1920, New Hampshire has been first to hold its presidential primary, and the results of that vote often speak volumes in terms of which candidates will prove viable contenders. In the 2000 presidential primary, 85 percent of New Hampshire's registered Republicans and 74 percent of registered Democrats voted. That turnout rate is about 50 percent higher than the national average.

Dixville Notch, of course, takes the seriousness of its place in presidential politics to unparalleled heights. Voting traditionally takes place inside the "Ballot Room" at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, a storied property that occupies 15,000 acres within the 31,000-acre unincorporated township of Dixville, which is situated way up north in New Hampshire's Great North Woods. The Balsams alone is larger than the island of Manhattan--which is 390 miles away. In 2012, however, voting was relocated to the resort's ski lodge because the property is closed for renovations.

Though Dixville Notch and its handful of voters lie quite a distance off the beaten campaign path, every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush made the journey to Dixville Notch at one point or another to court their favor. In 2008, Barack Obama was the first president to be elected without making a campaign stop in Dixville Notch. One of the reasons presidential hopefuls have taken this pocketful of potential supporters seriously is that the media also makes a habit of trekking to the Notch to cover the nation's first primary and presidential election returns.

The Ballot Room at The Balsams is bedecked with campaign memorabilia left behind by those who have come, schmoozed and in some cases, gone on to become leader of the free world. There are also plentiful relics of campaigns that went afoul or never even got off the ground. For 2012, a selection of memorabilia was displayed at the ski lodge, and with the Balsams slated to reopen late in 2013, there's a good chance voting will return to the Ballot Room for the 2016 presidential primary.

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