New Hampshire towns race to be first

November 5, 2012

Before Tuesday's election, a pair of tiny New Hampshire towns are focused on an entirely different race -- which one will be the first in the nation to cast votes for president.

Polls open at 12:01 a.m. at both Hart's Location, smack in the center of White Mountain National Forest and Dixville Notch in the upper New Hampshire wilderness. The competing towns -- 80 miles apart -- have about 100 residents between them.

About 36 voters are on a checklist at Hart's Location and about 30 are queued up to vote at the Balsam Wilderness Ski Area lodge at Dixville Notch. For the first time this election, voters had better have identification -- the state recently adopted a law requiring photo I.D. (Voters without photo ID can fill out “challenged voter affidavit.”)

"I love it. I think it's a quirky tradition. It's a neat tradition, something people value," said Karen Ladd, publisher and editor of the News and Sentinel in Colebrook, just west of Dixville Notch.

When Ladd goes to the ski lodge to record how many votes were cast for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at midnight, she won't be alone. "This room will be crammed with press from all over the world," she said. "The way we see it, it focuses a whole lot of attention on our area once every four years."

Darryl Fears has worked at The Washington Post for more than a decade, mostly as a reporter on the National staff. He currently covers the environment, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and issues affecting wildlife.
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