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November 04. 2012 8:15PM

Dixville Notch, Hart's Location vie to be first in the nation to vote

HART'S LOCATION - At midnight Tuesday, the registered voters in Hart's Location, already lined up alphabetically, will announce their names to the ballot clerks and proceed to one of the voting booths set up in the very small town hall.

"We have 36 voters on our checklist," Mark Dindorf, a selectman in the town of under 50 residents, said Sunday.

It's a race to be first in the nation to announce the election results, a race that is made more challenging by the media attention focused on the other New Hampshire midnight voting district. Dixville Notch also has another advantage over Hart's: It has a shorter checklist. Since the Balsams Grand Resort remains closed for renovations, there are fewer voters to cast their ballots during the voting, which this year will take place at the resort's ski lodge.

The voting process at both locations could be a little slower than normal, too, as residents will be required to show a photo ID, no matter how many decades they've entered the voting booth without one.

Hart's checklist has grown since the presidential primary last January, when the wishes of 31 voters had to be accounted for before the vote total could be announced. The polls will be declared closed when officials are certain everyone has had a chance to exercise their right to cast a ballot, which means those not at the town hall either will have voted absentee, or notified the election officials that they will not be voting.

Among those not attending the midnight voting session will be Aaron and Aslyn Dindorf. The college students were on break in January, but now, their father Mark Dindorf said, it's too close to exams. The brother and sister have voted absentee.

It was a sweep for President Obama in the Democrat primary last winter in the Crawford Notch town.

Obama captured 100 percent of the 10 voters who took the Democrat ballot during the town's midnight voting, getting the support of eight residents at the town hall, and of two absentee ballots voters.

It wasn't a sweep for the eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who received five votes out of the 13 cast. Candidate Ron Paul got four votes, with Jon Huntsman receiving two votes, and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry getting one each.

As of Jan. 10, 2012, the town had six residents registered to vote as Republicans, 12 as Democrats, and 12 as undeclared voters. For the presidential primary, eight undeclared voters picked up a Republican ballot, six a Democrat ballot, with all but four switching back to undeclared after voting.

The town's first foray into early voting has roots in its railroading past. In 1948, the town's people gathered to vote at 7 a.m. so that the railroad workers could participate without taking off unpaid time. The town carried on the tradition until 1968, when it began to sometimes open the polls at midnight. The town became a media sensation after election official Florence Morey sent the results to a Boston paper. Through the years, the media members who came up to cover the early voting irritated some of the residents with their presence, and the practice was discontinued.

In 1996, Ed Butler and his partner, Les Shoof, owners of Notchland Inn, helped revive the tradition. This year, Butler, who is deputy town clerk, is running for state representative, a position he's held before. As deputy clerk, his role in the election has diminished, with a fairly new resident, Michelle Goodreau, filling the town clerk position.

"She decided to step up," Dindorf said, adding that she had gotten two write-in votes for the position at March's town meeting. Previously, the town clerk of Bartlett had filled that role. Shoof is town moderator.

Shortly before the presidential primary in January, Dindorf said that it's been a friendly competition between the town and Dixville Notch, but that Dixville had the advantage. Voters there cast their ballot in the Balsams, and Dindorf said the hotel was able to wine and dine the media. This year's voting at Dixville Notch will take place at the lodge of the Wilderness Ski Area.

syoungknox@newstote.com

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