For 50 years, presidential hopefuls came to the Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch, N.H., home of the midnight voters who cast the first ballots in the nation. Since the resort closed in 2011, the area is struggling to stay afloat and bring out candidates. (The Washington Post)

DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H. -- For 50 years, the candidates came.

They would make the long journey north on the winding roads of New Hampshire and eventually emerge through the granite mountain pass known as Dixville Notch. Their destination: the Balsams Resort, home of the midnight voters.

Every New Hampshire primary eve, a handful of nearby residents put on their coats, get in their cars, and drive to the Balsams Resort to cast the first ballots in the nation exactly at midnight.

Since the resort closed in 2011, both the "town" and the number of visiting candidates have steadily declined. With no jobs in the area, there are no more residents, so very few presidential aspirants have made the famed journey to the resort town. This year, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) visited Dixville Notch.

Still, for Tom Tillotson, son of Neil Tillotson, who brought the midnight vote ritual to the Balsams, the tradition must go on.

It goes beyond the headlines and publicity, according to Tillotson. By making the trek north to Dixville Notch, candidates are more likely to make stops in neighboring towns.

“Candidates aren’t going to spend a lot a time here,” Tillotson says. “For Dixville, it’s important to be the first of the first because that brings these candidates to us and a part of the state that is otherwise going to be isolated.”

This year, the voting will take place in a house just a five-minute walk from the original ballot room. As Tillotson points out, voter turnout has been 100 percent in Dixville Notch since the inception of the midnight vote and this year he expects that tradition to continue.

All nine registered Dixville Notch voters are expected to show up to the ballot box this year.