Every four years, a tiny, unincorporated town in the far northern reaches of New Hampshire becomes the first of three towns to vote in its state’s primary, casting ballots just after midnight.
And every four years, the media pays outsize attention to this one town’s results.
This year, the town, Dixville Notch, saw 100 percent voter turnout – meaning nine people voted. (The town saw its population peak in 1988, when 38 people lived there.)
Of Republicans, three voted for John Kasich — the only candidate to pay the locality a visit — and two broke for Donald Trump. Among Democrats, four voters picked Bernie Sanders, and none sided with Hillary Clinton.
So why all the attention afforded this tiny locality, when the two other nearby towns, Millsfield and Hart’s Location, are not quite as small? It’s not as though Dixville Notch has proved particularly adept at predicting the eventual victors in New Hampshire. For example, Barack Obama won there among Democrats — though Clinton went on to claim the state in 2008. In 2000, the town went for George W. Bush, though the rest of the state went for John McCain.
Dixville Notch, though not always in step with the rest of New Hampshire, has the unrivaled distinction of having correctly picked the eventual Republican nominee in every election since 1968. To be fair, there were two ties — one in 1980, between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and another in 2012, between Mitt Romney and John Huntsman.
On the Democratic side, the town’s record is more mixed. In 2000, for example, voters chose Bill Bradley, though Al Gore was the party’s eventual nominee.
Of course, there’s no telling whether Dixville Notch’s streak will continue this year — just because the town has predicted nominees in the past does not mean, statistically, that it will again. And given the twists and turns of this year’s Republican nominating contest, poll watchers should expect more surprises.
And the town’s population has dwindled so much that its nine voters should be treated more as a curiosity than a statistical sample. But that won’t stop journalists wanting to write about the spectacle of the midnight vote — and, sure enough, accounts of the results are once more making headlines.