Surprise Results in Traditional New Hampshire ‘Midnight Vote’
Every four years, the residents of three tiny northern New Hampshire towns head to the polls to participate in the traditional “midnight vote.”
Due to the pandemic, one of these communities, Hart’s Location, called off their election.
The media chose to focus on the results from Dixville Notch where all five ballots were cast for former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Joe Biden takes all 5 votes in tiny township that is one of the first to announce results on Election Day,” reported CNN. The New York Times informed readers that, “Biden Sweeps Dixville Notch in Midnight Vote.”
The most surprising outcome, however, came from the nearby township of Millsfield where 16 votes were cast for President Trump compared to five for Biden.
I don’t want to read too much into this due to the miniscule sample size, but it’s worth noting that Trump has trailed Biden in the state by a wide margin throughout this year. The average of the seven polls of New Hampshire residents reported in October by RealClearPolitics show Biden ahead of Trump by 9.6 percent.
In 2016, eight votes were cast in Dixville Notch. Hillary Clinton received four; Trump, two; Gary Johnson, one; and Mitt Romney, who was not on the ballot, received one write-in vote.
Similar to this morning’s results in Millsfield, Trump won 16 votes compared to Clinton’s four in 2016. Bernie Sanders also received one write-in vote.
In Hart’s Location, Clinton received 17 votes, Trump, 14, and Gary Johnson, three.
The Christian Science Monitor’s 2016 headline read, “Clinton wins in midnight voting at Dixville Notch, N.H.” It’s lede? “The tiny mountain town hasn’t been wrong the last two presidential elections, but incorrectly guessed the eventual Republican nominee this year.”
But the most amazing thing of all in the CSM article, was their failure to include the more Trump friendly results from Millsfield and Hart’s Location.
Questioned about the predictive value of results in Dixville Notch in 2008, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver wrote: “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.”
Although Nate Silver puts no stock into the Dixville Notch midnight vote, it does attract a fair amount of attention. The popular show, “The West Wing,” once devoted an episode to this quadrennial tradition, calling it “Hartsfield’s Landing, a fictional New Hampshire town based on Dixville, Millsfield, and Hart’s Location.”
According to NPR, in this episode, Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman describes Hartsfield’s Landing as “the small town of 42 people that votes at 12:01 a.m. and reports results at 12:07 a.m., giving the press something to talk about for 21 hours before anything else happens.”
Also in that episode, the town is described as: “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. It’s 12:01 a.m., and the registrar of voters — who’s also the principal and only teacher at the Hartsfield’s school — calls the roll of voters.”
CSM reports that New Hampshire state law “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.”