Why Dixville Notch Holds The First Presidential Vote in the Nation

By Carla Charter

DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H. – The 2020 vote is coming soon. However, the first vote will not be cast in New York City of Los Angeles. Instead, as tradition dictates, the first vote will be cast at midnight in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire.
The midnight voting tradition in Dixville Notch began in November 1960. “There has been midnight voting NH prior to this, since 1950s at various times, various small towns did it,” according to Tom Tillotson, Moderator of Dixville Notch. Dixville however, became the place where the media flocked, to watch the first vote in the nation cast, due to the Balsams Hotel where that vote was held.
“The Balsams had a communication capability. Reporters primarily from AP and UPI, were able to take pictures and develop them in an on-site dark room, then fax their stories and pictures back. At Dixville it was easier to do their work than in other small towns,” Tillotson said. Prior to the Balsams, reporters would have to take their photos and drive an hour to have the same access.
The Balsam’s closed in 2011 which decreased the number of people living in Dixville Notch. A developer now has a plan to use current and adjacent land there to ultimately create the largest ski area in New England. Currently though residents of Dixville Notch number five, including Tillotson, his wife an adult son and two people associated with the new Balsam development project. New Hampshire requires a town to have 5 residents in order to hold an election. “If we lose someone, we will go to a neighboring town to vote,” Tillotson stated.
“The audience during the public vote count is usually about 80 tops. When the hotel was open there were maybe 100-150 people attending, “ Tillotson said. As for getting ready for the election he said there is always the administrative work that has to be done
Regarding his thoughts on hosting the first vote in the nation, Tillotson said, “It’s kind of fun and a privilege. I think we do a decent job of representing the voters. Our votes are not going to sway the county much less the state or the nation but we all come out and vote. If everyone did that maybe it would sway the election,” he said. Tillotson continued that regarding the 2020 election, Tillotson continued “I am looking forward to the election. It is going to be an interesting election.“