Everything You Need to Know About the New Hampshire Primary

Your guide to the first-in-the-nation primary.

February 9, 2016, 6:33 AM

— MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Regardless of who wins, there’s a reason for Granite Staters to celebrate: Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary. Here’s your primer on the details.

Who can vote? Any registered voter can cast a ballot, and yes, voters may register on the day of the primary. “Undeclared” voters may temporarily register with either party, vote, and drop their party affiliation before leaving. They’re a valuable block: of registered New Hampshire voters, 44% are independent.

Record turnout?Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting a record surge in Republican ballots cast. Democrats are not expected to show up to the polls in the record numbers they did eight years ago. Even so, overall turnout is expected to shatter the mark set in 2008.

When do polls open?Three precincts will open their polls as early as midnight. Hart’s Location, Millsfield, and the famous Dixville Notch (pop. 9) are small enough to open and close their polls, with 100% turnout, in a matter of minutes.

Across the rest of the state, polls in larger cities like Manchester and Nashua open at 6 a.m., though most precincts don’t open until 7 or 8 a.m.

Poll closuresBesides the quirky midnight votes, polls begin closing at 7 p.m., though in some areas voting will continue until 8 p.m.

Weather reportNew Hampshire received a few inches of snow Monday, but a mostly dry day is expected as voters head to the polls. Secretary of State Gardner says he does not expect the weather to have an impact on the primary.

How predictive is this primary, anyway?New Hampshire’s record at picking nominees is…spotty. On the Republican side, it’s a better indicator than Iowa: in the last 7 nominating contests dating back to 1976, the New Hampshire winner has gone on to win the nomination 5 times. On the Democratic side, Iowa has the edge: over the last 8 competitive contests, Iowa voters have chosen 6 eventual nominees; New Hampshirites have chosen 5.

Many would argue that the states’ most valuable role is paring down the choices, not picking a winner. But in 40 years, no Republican has secured the nomination without winning one of those two early states.

Polling places to watchNot all wards are created equal: some polling places are especially telling. University of New Hampshire polling director Andy Smith tells ABC News “for the GOP, I like to look at Derry as it has both a blue collar core and suburban parts.” On the Democratic side, Smith says, “Keene is key." He predicts a 60 percent finish for Bernie Sanders might spell statewide disaster for Hillary Clinton -- not a far-fetched scenario, as the heavily Democratic town is less than 20 miles from the Vermont border.

Frontrunner Donald Trump might have his eye on working class towns like Rochester, Somersworth or perhaps nearby Farmington, which his state staff calls “Trump country.”

When worlds collide -- @NewDay4America canvassers bump into a @ChrisChristie intern while canvassing. pic.twitter.com/DQF3knbjeo

— Brad Mielke (@TheBradMielke) February 8, 2016

What about fraud?The state’s famously inclusive rules allow college students from other states to vote, as long as they don’t vote anywhere else. And every four years, voter fraud watchdogs are on the lookout for votes from New Hampshire’s many vacation property owners, and the political volunteers who spend long stretches in the state.

Who’s running?This isn’t a dumb question. All it takes is $1,000 and a signature to participate in the first-in-the-nation primary. 28 Democrats and 30 Republicans have taken the plunge. Names like O’Malley and Paul are still on the ballots, and could garner votes from staunch supporters. Lesser-known candidates like Vermin Supreme, a Democrat who campaigns wearing a boot on his head, are there as well. While some may be more optimistic than others, they’ll all learn their fates Tuesday night.

When they say "everyone comes to the Radisson this week," they mean everyone. @VerminSupreme, keeping it clean. pic.twitter.com/8u7Pz9hf8X

— Brad Mielke (@TheBradMielke) February 8, 2016

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