CORRECTED: Obama, McCain get early win in Dixville Notch

Tue Jan 8, 2008 8:03am EST

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Corrects name from Richards to Richardson in paragraph 3

DIXVILLE NOTCH (Reuters) - Sen. Barack Obama won seven of the 10 votes cast for Democrats in the first balloting of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday in the northern hamlet of Dixville Notch, while Sen. John McCain won the Republican balloting.

Ballots by all 17 registered voters were cast and counted just after midnight on Tuesday in the remote White Mountain town that takes advantage of a state law allowing communities to close polls once voting is over and announce the results.

Other than those for Obama, of Illinois, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards got two votes and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson received one. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton received none.

Among the seven votes cast for Republicans, Arizona Sen. John McCain won four, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 2, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani won one vote.

The ballots in Dixville Notch and nearby Harts Location represent the first direct voting in New Hampshire's primary, the next battleground in the state-by-state process of choosing Republican and Democratic candidates for November's election to replace President George W. Bush.

Though its population is tiny at 74 residents, Dixville Notch is home to the 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) Balsams Grand Resort Hotel near the Canadian border.

In 1960, to spark publicity and serve a civic function, the resort's late owner, Neil Tillotson, opened voting booths at midnight on primary day and reported the results of the staff's ballots to the local wire service.

He did the same on Election Day in November. Every four years since, the media spotlight shines on Dixville Notch, luring a stream of politicians including President George W. Bush, and former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

As in past years, it was as much a media sideshow as an exercise in U.S. democracy, with television cameras crowding the "ballot room" of the hotel.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California was the only candidate to attend the balloting in Dixville Notch.

Three Republicans -- McCain, Giuliani and Texas Rep. Ron Paul -- made the trek to campaign last year.

To speed things up, in an attempt to assure Dixville Notch would be first to finish voting, each of the 13 voters present had a voting booth. Four others voted by absentee ballot. The balloting was over within minutes as 12 Independents, 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted.

(Reporting by Chris Jensen, editing by Philip Barbara)

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