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After reviving midnight voting, Millsfield plans to skip the NH primary tradition in 2024

Casey McDermott
A scene from Millsfield's midnight vote in 2020.

Millsfield doesn’t always get the New Hampshire primary credit it deserves, said Shawn Cote, town selectman.

The Coos County community was the first to start New Hampshire's midnight voting tradition. Records show townspeople cast the nation's first presidential primary ballots at midnight in 1936.

Dixville Notch, right next door, has typically captured most of the national spotlight. But Millsfield and Hart’s Location, which celebrates itself as the smallest town in New Hampshire, have also long participated in midnight voting.

But this year, Cote said Millsfield residents decided to forgo the midnight vote, due in part to an aging population.

“It’s hard on them to do it, and there’s going to be more absentee votes than actual people there counting the votes,” Cote said.

Millsfield residents made the decision to skip midnight voting at a town meeting in March.

“It was going to be three of us showing up to count absentee ballots and maybe the three of us vote,” Cote said.

Not that any of the midnight voting towns have been historical bellwethers, given their size.

In the last presidential primary, held Feb. 11, 2020, Millsfield voters cast four ballots in the Democratic primary and 17 in the Republican primary, according to results from the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

Representatives for Dixville Notch have confirmed they will be hosting a midnight vote. In the past they’ve typically held voters at the Ballot Room at The Balsams’ Dix House but with renovations on property, the Tillotson House will hold the 2024 primary vote.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State's office said they anticipate Hart's Location will also continue their midnight voting tradition in January. Representatives from that community did not respond to NHPR's requests to speak before this story was published.

For Millsfield, Cote said it’s been “a little different” having television and news cameras around to participate in their voting. The plus side is that polls usually close within 10 to 20 minutes of opening.

It’s a fairly simple, straightforward process. He said that people are fine with Dixville Notch and Hart's Location carrying on the tradition.

Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.
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