Could a Tiny New Hampshire Town Predict an Election Dead Heat for All of Us?

Dixville Notch has now notched up another first: its polling of 10 individuals returned a tie between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for the first time in history.

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REUTERS/Herb Swanson

Donna Kaye Erwin posts the results after the 10 registered voters in the small village of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire cast the first election day ballots of the U.S. presidential election moments after midnight November 6, 2012.

The first election results are in, and ominously enough, it’s a dead heat.

Since 1948 the towns of Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, N.H., have both enjoyed their “first-in-the-nation” voting status each election year, when polls open at 12 midnight. Dixville Notch has now notched up another first: its polling of 10 individuals returned a tie between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for the first time in history.

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While many voters have already cast their early ballots, Dixville Notch retains its symbolic crown as the first to have its votes counted. New Hampshire law allows for towns with fewer than 100 residents to open and close their polls early. With a registered population of just 12 in the 2010 U.S. Census, the vote took less than a minute and was counted shortly after midnight.

Usually held in the ballroom of a luxury hotel, the vote was moved this year to a nearby ski lodge, where, in the usual scheme of things given the media attention showered on the small town, the number of journalists outnumbered the voters.

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The first vote was decided by a lottery which 24-year-old Tanner Tilotson — whose grandfather Neil Tilotson founded the now infamous voting tradition — had the honor of casting. He voted for Obama. Speaking with the AFP he said:

“I think (the result) is very indicative, that this is the first time in Dixville Notch’s history that there is a tie. We’re still a very divided nation and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the country is.”

Since 1960, the Republican candidate has won the small town’s vote in every election, until 2008 when Obama bucked that trend.

For fans of Aaron Sorkin’s show The West Wing, the community’s name might strike at familiarity. The episode Hartsfield’s Landing pays homage to the towns of Hart’s Location and Dixville Notch. Josh Lyman, played by Bradley Whitford, frets over the votes in the remote, fictional town, as it has accurately predicted the winner of the presidential election for many years. In the real world, Dixville Notch has more of a mixed record, accurately predicting only 7 of the last 13 elections.

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The results are more definitive over in Hart’s Landing, however, where votes were counted shortly after Dixville Notch. Obama gained a comfortable victory, earning 23 votes to Romney’s 9. Libertarian Gary Johnson received two votes.

New Hampshire is one of the key states being contested in this election, with four electoral college votes up for grabs. Mitt Romney chose to host his last big campaign push in the state Monday evening, telling the thousand-strong crowd: “New Hampshire got me the Republican nomination, and New Hampshire is going to get me the White House.” If the results at Dixville Notch are anything to go by, it won’t be that simple.

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