Tiny town first to vote in NH primary

January 7, 2008 6:47:34 AM PST
You might think the politicians would blow-right past a tiny New Hampshire town with only two dozen residents -- but they don't. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have made the trek to Dixville Notch. Barack Obama sent a few staffers to visit last week. All want to know what they can do to influence how residents of the town vote on Tuesday.

Fifteen miles from the Canadian border and a world away from the chaos of the campaign trail, a small community prepares for its moment in the national spotlight. It only comes once every four years.

"My wife and I flipped a coin. She won. I gotta stay home and take care of the kids and she's coming over to catch it all!" said David Cleary, Dixville Notch, NH voter. "It's fun. It's a cultural event."

In 1960, a man by the name of Neil Tillotson lobbied and won the right for this town to open its polling place at one minute after midnight on Election Day. Just as important, the ballots can be counted and a winner declared just as soon as every eligible voter here has cast a ballot.

Not hard. This year, there are only 16 registered voters in Dixville Notch.

"We are a small place but we get 100% of our voters to turn out and I sort of feel that is an example to be set," said Rick Erwin, Dixville Notch Town Clerk.

The publicity of a pre-dawn primary win is what has drawn presidential candidates to this place for decades. In 1980, Illinois Congressman Phil Crane worked this state -- and this town -- hard. So has Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Here's a photo of Fred Thompson campaigning for John McCain here in 1999.

They Dixville Notch do OK with predicting the Republican winners. But the Democrats? Well, things went downhill for Dick Gephardt and Wesley Clark shortly after their big wins in Dixville Notch.

"I'll share. I'm voting for Obama," said Michelle Johnson, Dixville Notch, NH, voter. "I love him, I like his character."

Thanks to Michelle, Barack Obama now has a lock on at least 6-percent of this town's vote. Kader Tenkkit moved here from Skokie, he's going with a Republican.

"I know who I'll vote for, it'll be a pro-life candidate," said Kader Tenkkit, Dixville Notch, NH., voter.

For 10-year-old Elise Tenkkit, democracy in Dixville has a whole different meaning- staying up past midnight.

"This is the first time they're going to bring me!" said Elise.