Jim Cole / AP Photo

First votes cast in New Hampshire hamlets

In first votes cast in first-in-the-nation voting, Sanders won the Democratic race; Kasich triumphed among Republicans

Bernie Sanders and John Kasich picked up the most votes as the first ballots of the first-in-the-nation primary were cast early Tuesday in New Hampshire.

Sanders won over all four Democratic voters in the tiny town of Dixville Notch, while Kasich sneaked past Donald Trump, 3-2, among Republicans. 

Hart’s Location, went for Kasich and Sanders according to the town’s website which noted that the “polls opened at midnight and closed at 12:06 a.m.”

The tally in the Democratic race was Sanders, 12, Hillary Clinton, 7, Mark Steward Greenstein, 2. For the GOP, Kasich had 5 votes, Trump, 4, Chris Christie, 2, and 1 each for Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took Millsfield with nine of 18 Republican votes, according to Politico, followed by Trump who garnered three. Kaisch, Christie, Bush, Rubio and Carly Fiorina each got one vote in MIllsfield, as did Sen. Rand Paul who has dropped out of the race. The Democrats of Millsfield pulled for Clinton, who got two votes, leaving Sanders with one vote.

The winners of the New Hampshire's 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."

Turnout in United States has been dropping for decades, with just 57.5 percent of voters going to the polls in 2012, according to the Washington think tank Bipartisan Policy Center.

To Wendy Schiller, who chairs Brown University's political science department, the turnout in the illustrates the value of the midnight voting tradition.

"It's the foundation of democracy," Schiller said. "Being able to vote at midnight, being able to be the first people voting for a new president, I think that still represents the ideal version of democracy."

Under New Hampshire state law, communities with fewer than 100 voters can get permission to open their polls at midnight and close them as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots.

Dixville traditionally gets most of the spotlight due to its media-friendly setup at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel.

Located about 20 miles from the Canadian border, Dixville exists as a town only for voting purposes. Almost all of its nine voters are employees of the hotel, which closed in 2011 but is currently undergoing a major overhaul under new owners.

Former owner Neil Tillotson started the midnight voting tradition in 1960, likely at the suggestion of a news photographer looking for an advantage in getting his pictures out to newspapers ahead of his rivals. For many years, voters cast their ballots in individual booths in the hotel's posh ballot room. Because of the renovations, the nine current residents will vote in another building on the property, the Hale House.

Hart's Location, about 80 miles south of Dixville, first hosted midnight voting in 1948 but gave it up after the 1964 election when residents grew weary of the late hours and media frenzy every four years. Energized with new blood, town residents revived the tradition in 1996.

Millsfield is also making a comeback this year, though it's unclear just when the town last voted at midnight or when its tradition started. According to a 1952 article in Time magazine, eight residents voted at midnight during the general election that year. 

Wire services

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