Shuttered resort still plans to host New Hampshire voters

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A shuttered hotel where the nation's first presidential primary ballots have been traditionally cast will once against host midnight voting in 2016, according to developers working to overhaul and expand the historic resort.

The nearly 150-year-old Balsams resort in Dixville Notch closed in September 2011, and its new owners are still waiting for environmental permits to move ahead with extensive restoration plans, which include a new hotel and conference center and a larger ski area. That has raised questions about the fate of the primary voting tradition, but project spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said the goal is to have a portion of the resort's Dix House ready for the February primary.

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"The desire is to continue the tradition of voting first in the first-in-the-nation primary," he said. "We believe that it's important not only for Dixville but for all of the North Country and quite frankly, for the state of New Hampshire. This voting tradition in Dixville has garnered a great deal of attention for not only the Balsams but for the region and the state."

If Dix House isn't ready, voting also could be held in Hale House, another building on the property that most recently served as the chef's quarters, he said.

See photos of the resort:

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Balsams resort in Dixville Notch
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Shuttered resort still plans to host New Hampshire voters
FILE - In this May 10, 2012, file photo, a large sign hangs in front of the Balsams Hotel in Dixeville Notch, N.H., where an auction was scheduled to clear out the nearly 150-year-old resort. A bill to pave the way for an ambitious plan to restore the resort got the go-ahead from New Hampshire's House of Representatives Wednesday, May 6, 2015. The bill would create a special taxing district allowing the state to back $28 million in bonds toward redeveloping the Balsams, which closed in 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
DIXVILLE NOTCH, NH - MARCH 24: The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, originally opened as the Dix House just after the Civil War but bought and renamed by inventor and industrialist Henry S. Hale in 1895, is shown March 24, 2006 in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. In 1918, Hale added a new wing seen to the right, doubling the capacity of the resort to its current 400 guests. The resort is located on a 15,000 acres, with golfing in the summer and skiing in the winter. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
From left, residents Donna Kaye Erwin, Tanner Tillotson, Peter Johnson, and Jacques Couture wait for the stoke of midnight to cast their voters in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, at The Balsams Grand Resort, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in Dixville, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican presidential hopeful, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, campaigns at the Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch, N.H., Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Robert f. Bukaty)
DIXVILLE, NH - JANUARY 10: Jacques Couture casts the first vote as the clock struck midnight... In the small northern New Hampshire town of Dixville, since the 1960 election, the U.S. presidential primary voting has been held at midnight, at Balsams Grand Resort Tuesday, Dixville, New Hampshire, January 10, 2012. Town moderator, Tom Tillotson, at right. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In this Jan. 25, 2004 file photo, the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel is seen in Dixville Notch, N.H. The owners of the grand resort say they are in talks with the former part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, Les Otten on how to redevelop the North Country hotel.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot/FILE)
From left, Tom Tillotson, Rick Erwin, and Donna Kaye Erwin count ballots cast after midnigh in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, at The Balsams Grand Resort, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Dixville, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2008 file photo, Tom Tillotson, right, announces midnight as Donna Kaye Erwin gets to cast the first ballot for the nation's presidential primary in Dixville Notch, N.H. Two years ago the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, where the first votes are cast, was sold, but the doors still remain shut with no guests and its future is uncertain. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Tom Tillotson removes ballots for counting after midnight that were cast in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, at The Balsams Grand Resort, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Dixville, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Peter Johnson, left, and Rick Erwin set up a booth for the scheduled first-in-the-nation presidential primary vote, at The Balsams Grand Resort, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in Dixville, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
**ONE IN A SERIES OF PHOTOS OF DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H.** Coly Hope vacuums the voters booths in the Ballot Room at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, Monday, Jan. 26, 2004, in Dixville Notch, N.H. Each of the 23 registered voters has their own booth. Dixville Notch has had the distinction of being the "first in the nation" to report results of primary elections since 1964. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
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"The beauty of the ballot room is that while it did have its dedicated location inside the Dix House, all the elements are mobile — the flags, the ballot boxes, the voting booths themselves, all the memorabilia — all that stuff has been preserved and has been in safekeeping for a few years," he said.

Dixville shares midnight voting with Hart's Location, a small town in the White Mountains that started the early voting tradition in 1948 to accommodate railroad workers who had to be at work before normal voting hours. Hart's Location suspended the midnight voting in 1964 and brought it back in 1996. Eager for some of the spotlight, Balsams owner Neil Tillotson arranged for early voting at the hotel by having Dixville incorporated in 1960 solely for voting.

In 2012, the hotel opened for one night for the presidential primary. Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman tied for first place on the GOP side with two votes apiece, and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul each got one vote. For the Democrats, President Barack Obama received three votes.

None of the 2016 presidential hopefuls has visited the hotel this year, but Tranchemontagne said several have expressed interested. He said there likely will be 10 or so resort workers living on the property by February who could vote.

Meanwhile, the tiny town of Millsfield next door to Dixville also plans to open its polls at midnight for its approximately 20 voters. According to news reports, the community voted at midnight in 1952, but never made it a tradition.

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