Seats Down, Lids Open: New Hampshire's Outhouse 'Voting Booth' Is Back | New Hampshire Public Radio

Seats Down, Lids Open: New Hampshire's Outhouse 'Voting Booth' Is Back

Oct 26, 2020

For the past two presidential elections, farmer Chris Owens has conducted an informal vote at his vegetable stand in Holderness, New Hampshire. Visitors are invited to drop a ballot into an outhouse toilet of their choosing - one assigned to each of the major candidates.  

NHPR’s Sean Hurley has made a habit of visiting the unconventional polling place near Election Day. He stopped by a few days ago, and filed this report.

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Editor's note: We highly recommend listening to this story  

Just a few days away now, the presidential election and Halloween seem to have merged into a single spooky something or other at Owens Farm Stand in Holderness. American flags flutter over scary masks and the pumpkin patch is festooned with political signs.

Chris Owens with this year's farm stand special item - Brussels sprouts on the stalk.
Credit Sean Hurley

In front of his voting booth outhouse, Chris Owens introduces me to the two nightmarish figures manning – or maniking – the outhouse door. “The one of Biden's really good and the one that’s Trump is just as well,” Owens says. “He looks like a maniac. The mask is not so good but everybody knows it's him.”

Joe Biden doesn’t have hands. Donald Trump wears gardening gloves. Biden stands on one side of the door in a dark trenchcoat - a rope around his waist so he doesn’t tip over. In dirty t-shirt and shorts, Donald Trump needs no rope, he can even balance on one bare foot.

Both manikins look deliriously happy, the Bill and Ted of the Presidential Set, Chris Owens thinks. “We’re not taking sides at all,” he says.

“You have a chance to vote for both. We have both of them featured out there. We got toilet seats for both of them. What more can we do? We even have Trump toilet paper this year.”

Inside the booth.
Credit Sean Hurley

Even though Owens, a Biden supporter, worked hard to make his outhouse look impartial – things have not gone smoothly. 

“We've had several fights here. We've lost a couple customers,” Owens tells me. “Oh, the Democrats and the ones that want him out, want him out bad! And the Trump people are just as crazy. They've been having rallies over town, they've had parades. And their signs are like, as big as a house. Wherever you go. You go out past Plymouth towards Rumney, Warren, Wentworth it's Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump!”

Which little chant gets his chickens clucking. ‘Bock’ is the more traditional word, Owens tells me as he demonstrates and the chickens call back to him.

You can buy produce, talk with the chickens, and drop a ballot in your preferred candidates’ toilet all this week at Owens Farm Stand – but the straw poll closes on Saturday.

“Halloween!” Owens says and smiles. “Couldn't ask for a better date to tally them votes!”