Clinton wins in midnight voting at Dixville Notch, N.H.

The tiny mountain town hasn't been wrong the last two presidential elections, but incorrectly guessed the eventual Republican nominee this year. 

Mary Schwalm/Reuters
Voter Clay Smith looks at the final tally in the US presidential election at midnight in Dixville Notch, N.H., Tuesday. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won with four votes to Donald Trump's two.

Hillary Clinton has won in Dixville Notch, one of three tiny New Hampshire towns to cast the first ballots of Election Day just after midnight.

The Democratic presidential candidate notched four votes to Donald Trump’s two. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received one vote. So did Mitt Romney, who is not on the ballot.

Mrs. Clinton is ahead in most national polls. But polls are just that; votes actually count for something. But in Dixville Notch – a mountain town with a population of 12, and about 20 miles near the Canadian border – is it at all predictive of the next president?

"In a word: No," wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver in 2008. "There’s no historical relationship between the performance of the two major-party candidates in Dixville Notch and their performance in the rest of New Hampshire – never mind the rest of the country."

Until this year, however, the town has predicted the eventual Republican nominee in every election since 1968, according to NPR. That streak broke this year, when Dixville voters favored Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the only candidate to visit the town during the primary, over Mr. Trump.

But from Richard Nixon to Mitt Romney, the primary result in Dixville has foretold the Republican nominee, even if the candidate didn’t win the rest of New Hampshire that year (a caveat is there have been two ties in Dixville history – in 1980 between George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and in 2012 between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman). 

Along with nearby Millsfield and Hart’s Location, Dixville Notch is able to cast the first ballots in the nation because of a state law that allows any small town with fewer than 100 voters to open polls at midnight and close them as soon as all registered voters have cast ballots. Dixville Notch traditionally receives the most television coverage, with reporters falling over each other in the ballroom of the shuttered Balsams Resort hotel.

People often wonder if Dixville’s midnight voting is a "publicity stunt," Less Otten, the resort’s new owner and redeveloper, told The Boston Globe.

"The answer to that is 'yes.' It’s not a stunt, but it’s publicity. In our minds, we are publicizing voting," he said.

Even if observers note Dixville’s predictive powers aren’t foolproof, the resort offers a preview of the excitement of Election Day. For one, Dixville boasts 100 percent turnout, even though there have been fewer voters there every year for decades.

Though Mr. Trump bucked Dixville’s streak of predicting the Republican presidential nominee, it has correctly guessed the winner of the past two presidential elections. In 2008, Dixville voted for President Obama in a landslide and tied between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney in 2012. In 2008, Obama was the first Democrat to win there, collecting 15 votes.

It appears Dixville could continue this streak Tuesday. Nationally, Clinton leads Trump by about 4 points, 45.7 percent to 41.8 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight. But the race will likely come down to battleground states that include Florida and parts of the Rust Belt. The Clinton campaign has said it has been buoyed by strong turnout in states that vote early. Trump, meanwhile, must win nearly all of the roughly dozen battleground states up for grabs to reach the White House.

Win or lose (in Dixville), the tradition of the midnight vote is also a celebration of democracy, as "The West Wing" television show captured in an episode about Hartsfield's Landing, a fictional New Hampshire town based on Dixville, Millsfield, and Hart's Location. 

As NPR wrote, at the end of the episode, a reporter describes the scene at the ballot location:

"Two roads, no traffic lights, a filing cabinet and a countertop in the clerk's basement. But Hartsfield's Landing, New Hampshire, is where democracy begins for the world's only superpower."

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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