HART’S LOCATION, November 4 – Residents of two tiny towns in New Hampshire symbolically kicked off voting in the US presidential election on Tuesday, casting ballots just after midnight.
Hart’s Location switched from its pro-Republican record to back a Democrat: Barack Obama won 17 votes there to 10 for his Republican rival John McCain, said an AFP journalist at the voting station, a simple trailer with a US flag hanging outside.
Two other voters marked their ballots specially to vote not for either of the listed candidates, but for the maverick libertarian Represenative Ron Paul.
Dixville Notch voted 15-6 in favor of Obama, who was leading in national polls, against McCain, CNN reported. It was the first time the location voted for a Democrat since 1968, the network said.
With just 42 residents, Hart’s Location claims the spotlight every four years, when it casts the first ballots for the presidency. The practice began in earnest in 1948, when town residents chose to vote at the stroke of midnight so that railroad employees could report to work on time in the morning.
Before long, Dixville Notch was competing with the town for first-in-the-nation status. Locals weary of media attention chose to end midnight voting in 1964 but resumed it in the 1996 election.
State law does not dictate how early polls may open and allows towns with fewer than 100 residents to start casting votes in the first minutes of election day.
Turnout among Hart’s Location’s 29 registered voters was 100 percent.
"It’s the idyllic rural town, where the kids grow up knowing that the accepted idea is to vote," said Kath Harris, who has lived there for 14 years.
Arron Dindorf became the nation’s first 18 year-old to cast his vote. "It’s one of the few times the town gets together all at once," he said. "It’s neat to see how into it people are, and they want to keep the tradition alive."
Susan Bruce, a Democratic volunteer, was among those feverishly waiting for election results.
She said that she has slowly observed the surrounding county transform from a Republican stronghold to an area for which both parties rabidly compete. "We’re a two-party county now. It’s so exciting," she said.
Hours later, the rest of the United States was to begin voting too, with first results not expected until 7:00 pm eastern time (2300 GMT).