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When Town Meeting Day Met a Nor'Easter...

Jason Moon for NHPR
Voters in Newmarket brave the elements to cast a ballot on Tuesday.

Tuesday saw a collision of two great New Hampshire traditions: nor’easters and town meeting day. They might not seem like the best pairing, but as NHPR’s Jason Moon reports the two found a way to coexist.

  If there was a spot in New Hampshire where Tuesday’s nor’easter met with the idea of local elections, Ingrid Ahlberg was standing right on it.

Positioned outside the doors to the Newmarket polling place, she held signs supporting her own candidacy for school board as the wind kicked up swirls of fresh snow around her.

When I found her, she’d already been outside for hours. But she came prepared.

“Well I have my long underwear on, my cross-country ski pants, my gators, I just went home and put on the boots that were sitting next to the heater all morning, toe warmers on the bottoms and tops of my toes, I have two-layer mittens, long underwear on the top, my heaviest fleece, my down jacket, my neck gator, a good fleece hat and my hood up.

[JM] Wow. You’re ready.

I’m ready.”

And so, it seemed, were voters. Town officials in Durham and Newmarket reported strong turnout in the morning hours, before the storm got too severe.

Credit Jason Moon for NHPR

Kimberly Nadeau was one of those who came out early to vote in Durham. She’s originally from Georgia and doesn’t consider herself a New Englander. But she says she has learned a thing or two about nor’easters since moving here.

“You just do whatever it takes to do what you’re supposed to do and nor’easters aren’t acceptable reasons to not do it. That’s what I’ve learned from all the people up here.”

It was an attitude shared by many who came to the polls in spite of the weather and the confusion over whether towns had the authority to reschedule.

Many, like Ray Vincent of Newmarket, seemed taken aback at the idea they wouldn’t vote because of a storm.

“It’s our job. We’re Americans aren’t we? That’s what America is about – voting.”

But Ray’s wife, Lisa Vincent, also pointed to big ticket items on the ballot like Newmarket’s 39 million dollar school renovation proposal as a reason to show up.

“We’ve got the last of five kids -- she’s a junior now and every year we’ve voted for a new school and we’re going to keep doing it until they get a school.”

Back outside the polling place, I ask Ingrid Ahlberg if she thinks Newmarket’s school renovation project is behind the strong early turnout.

“It’s that, but I also think it is small town America. I don’t see those buses coming in from Massachusetts. I see people who care about their community coming out to vote.”

Maybe small town America. Definitely small town New Hampshire.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.

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