Midnight Ballots Tallied in NH Primary

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Dixville Notch, NH (CNSNews.com) - Democrat Bill Bradley and Republican John McCain take the (very) early lead in today's New Hampshire primary, with the first 59 votes already cast and counted in the tiny northern towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location.

Voters in both places went to the polls at midnight, continuing a tradition of being the first to vote in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

Among Democrats, Bradley received a total of 13 votes from both towns (4 in Dixville Notch, 9 in Hart's Location) to Al Gore's 5 votes (2 in Dixville Notch, 3 in Hart's Location).

Among Republicans, McCain received a total of 19 votes (10, Dixville Notch; 9, Hart's Location) and Bush got 17 (12, Dixville Notch; 5, Hart's Location).

Steve Forbes received one vote in Dixville Notch and none in Hart's Location, while Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer received no votes in either place. One person in Hart's Location cast a write-in vote for a candidate named Jeffrey Peters.

It's worth mentioning that the Republican chosen by Dixville Notch voters has gone on to win the party's nomination in every presidential election since 1968. This year, Bush received two more votes than McCain did in Dixville Notch.

The latest polls on the New Hampshire race show McCain and Bush in a statistical dead heat and Gore pulling ahead of Bradley. Both Bush and Gore lead in national polls, however. (Check Latest Polls)

The Independent vote is considered a critical factor in New Hampshire, and today's primary will be analyzed up and down as pundits, pollsters, and politicians try to figure out what Americans want and why they voted the way they did.

"It was a tough decision," said Gail Barba, a registered Independent in Dixville Notch, who took a Democratic ballot and voted for Bradley. "I also seriously considered McCain."

The Dixville Notch vote was held at the Grand Balsam's Hotel, where the walls are decorated with memorabilia of past primary votes. The hotel held as many members of the media as it did voters.

As usual, the first vote was cast by 101-year-old Neil Tillotson, who passed out the ballots and, as he has done for more than 40 years, cast the first vote. Dixville Notch began holding a midnight vote began in the early 60s, and this year, several members of the Bush family were there to watch what happened.

The tradition of a midnight vote began in Hart's Landing in 1948, when virtually everyone in town worked for the railroad and had to be at work before the polls opened.