DIXVILLE — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg won the voting in Dixville where residents again gathered at midnight to kick off the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.
Never mind that Bloomberg is not on the ballot in New Hampshire. Three of Dixville’s five voters, including its only Republican, wrote in the billionaire’s name.
Balsams developer Les Otten was the sole Republican and said he voted for Bloomberg because of his fiscal conservatism and his position on climate change. Also voting for Bloomberg was Tom Tillotson, son of former Balsams owner and inventor Neil Tillotson.
Tillotson said it was the first time in his life he voted for a write-in. He admitted he was a little surprised that two other people came to the same conclusion that the choices on the ballot were not acceptable.
He said Bloomberg started his company from scratch and built a media empire.
“You know he is a businessman, but he’s a businessman with a heart,” he said.
Balsams sales consultant Joe Casey voted for Pete Buttigieg and said for him the most important issues were health care, climate change, and gun control. He called Buttigieg a real decent guy and said he likes that the mayor brings a lot of energy to the race.
Historically, Dixville has voted Republican. Famously, it went unanimously for Nixon over Kennedy in the 1960 general election. But on the eve of primary day, the four undeclared voters requested Democratic ballots, leaving Otten as the only Republican voter.
The voting almost didn’t happen. Since the closing of the hotel, the population in Dixville has gone from as many as 30 residents to less than a handful. With a minimum of five voters required, Otten had to change his residence from Maine to Dixville to continue the tradition.
If the number of voters has dwindled, media interest in the midnight voting tradition in Dixville remains strong. Twenty-eight different media outlets covered the voting, a better than five-to-one ratio between voters and media.
There were television crews, radio, newspapers and podcasts with media from Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, N.H. Public Radio and ABC News podcast “Start Here,” as well a reporter from a Swiss publication and a media crew from China.
Much of the reporting centered on the tradition of voting at midnight in the little mountain hamlet not far from the Canadian border, with the snow-covered trees and the rugged notch. As his father did, Tom Tillotson carries out his duties as moderator bedecked in a bowtie. A painting of Neil Tillotson is sits on a stand overlooking the voting and the ballots are placed in a wooden ballot box with the New Hampshire State Seal on it.
With the hotel closed, the voting took place at what at one time was known as the Beaver Lodge. It was renovated in 2000 for the resort’s Culinary Apprenticeship Center. The doors retain the yellow color favored by Mrs. Henry Hale, the wife of a former owner of the Balsams. A stone archway frames the entrance to the driveway.
To make sure the voting follows state statute and the media provides the necessary distance from the polls, Assistant Attorney-General Richard Tracy was on site.
As the votes were cast, the television reporters started narrating the action for their viewers. Observers had the surreal experience of watching the Fox news broadcast live or stepping into the next room and watching it on the television set up there.
Gerda Melanson worked at the resort for years and was assisting at her sixth primary voting. When the hotel was open, she said guests would come to see the voting. In the older days, she said there were no cell phones and the hotel had limited phone lines. She said reporters would race after the ballots were counted to get a line.
“You should have seen them run. They were falling over each other going down to the lobby to the first phone they could get,” she recalled.
Today, she said everyone has a cell phone and modern technology has changed the voting. But Melanson said she hopes the tradition continues.
“It’s special,” she said.
Reporter Edith Tucker contributed to this article.