Dixville Notch’s ‘First In The Nation’ Midnight Voting Tradition May End Over Election Rules


Once each 4 years, for a quick second, it appears the entire world turns its eyes to Dixville Notch.

Since 1960, voters in this tiny Coos County group have been casting their ballots just after the stroke of midnight to mark the official begin of the New Hampshire presidential main.

But Dixville Notch has recently found itself beneath a special sort of spotlight: from the New Hampshire lawyer basic’s office. Shortly after the 2016 election, state election investigators began scrutinizing Dixville Notch’s voter guidelines and, alongside the best way, found a pattern of potential issues with its election procedures.

As one investigator put it, in a report shared with NHPR: “What started out as an investigation right into a grievance involving one voter, who might not have been a resident of Dixville … has appeared to uncover a probably more pervasive situation with respect to the method in Dixville as an entire.”

The individuals singled out within the state’s investigation keep they did nothing fallacious, that Dixville Notch’s elections are “absolutely reliable” and that the lawyer basic’s office appeared to blow the state of affairs out of proportion.

But this heightened scrutiny might have critical implications for one among New Hampshire’s proudest political traditions: If Dixville Notch can’t get its act collectively, the state says it gained’t be allowed to hold its midnight vote within the 2020 presidential main.

“Issues change over time in communities, and typically those modifications are troublesome and traditions end,” stated Associate Lawyer Common Anne Edwards. “But the lawyer basic’s duty is to enforce the election legal guidelines.”

A Many years-Long Dilemma

Dixville Notch isn’t the one place in New Hampshire that opens its polls at midnight for the presidential main. Nevertheless it’s stored its custom operating the longest, so it will get most of the press protection. Take it from Peter Johnson, who forged a ballot there for more than 30 years and provided up interviews to reporters from everywhere in the globe who took an curiosity in Dixville Notch’s early returns.

Via the years, Johnson’s political commentary has appeared in all places from CNN to the Sydney Morning Herald. He’s made cameos in videos by The Related Press, pictures from Reuters, information articles for audiences in Costa Rica, Paris and Singapore.

The factor is, all of those stories overlooked one crucial detail: Johnson doesn’t truly stay in Dixville Notch. And he hasn’t for many years.

From left, Donna Kaye Erwin, Tanner Tillotson, Peter Johnson, and Jacques Couture wait for the stoke of midnight to cast their voters in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary at The Balsams Grand Resort in 2012. (Matt Rourke/AP)
From left, Donna Kaye Erwin, Tanner Tillotson, Peter Johnson, and Jacques Couture await the stoke of midnight to forged their voters within the first-in-the-nation presidential main at The Balsams Grand Resort in 2012. (Matt Rourke/AP)

That key reality did come to the attention of New Hampshire election investigators in January 2017, amid a broader inquiry into potential voting irregularities in Dixville. And while Johnson’s story is difficult, it illustrates a few of the forces at…



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