Ballots Ready, but No Voters

This article was first published in Nov. 8, 2006 edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

LINCOLN – It’s voting day in town and O.J. Robinson is tending to his duties as moderator, directing some people to the supervisors of the checklist, explaining to another how to mark her ballot and taking each and every one of those ballots from voters and placing it into the voting box.

Business was brisk yesterday morning, as Lincoln residents tended to their civic duty.

Robinson is also the moderator for Livermore, a place that was once a thriving logging town incorporated in 1876, until the last person moved out in 1949 and the Legislature dissolved it in 1951.

(Former) Lincoln and Livermore moderator OJ Robinson with 25 Livermore ballots … just in case.

Travelers over the Kancamagus Highway may see the popsicle stick sign denoting it when the reach the height of land, about 15 miles from the center of Lincoln. Off Route 302 in Crawford Notch, there are remnants of the old settlement and maps do denote boundary lines.

There are no permanent residents and there haven’t been for decades. Nonetheless, this unincorporated place gets its owns printed ballots on election day, along with voter’s guides and absentee ballots.

All the things a voter needs, except there are no voters.

There are a total of 25 unincorporated places in New Hampshire; 23 of them in Coos County; Livermore is in Grafton County and Hale’s Location is in Carroll County, outside of Conway.

Some people do live in these places and they do vote. Secretary of State Bill Gardner notes 23 people from Pinkham’s Grant, home of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s base camp, voted in the September primary. Votes were also cast from folks in Green’s Grant, where the Mount Washington Auto Road is located and from places like Cambridge and Wentworth’s Location.

But some unincorporated lands are wild places where no one lives and probably never have lived, like Cutt’s Grant or Hadley’s Purchase, deep within the Presidential Range.

Still, the state prints up 25 ballots for each of those places and sends them to designated towns, like Lincoln, Errol and Gorham, where Town Clerk Grace LaPierre says she handles the paperwork for 11 unincorporated places.
“It’s the way its been for decades,” Gardner said. “If anyone claims a domicile there, we have a ballot ready for them.”

After casting his ballot in Lincoln, Murray Clark, of Clark’s Trading Post fame, reminisced about Livermore. When he served in the New Hampshire House in the 1970s, he introduced a bill to get Livermore annexed to Lincoln.

“A rep from the Conway side if we annexed Livermore, that Lincoln would be mining it and pumping for oil,” he recalled. “I said, ‘You can’t even take water from there.’ But it lost in the House” and Livermore has remained unincorporated.

The Upper Pemigewasset Historical Society notes on its website that there was once a mining operation there. The Livermore Tripoli Company mined diatomaceous earth from East Pond, which is used as a fine abrasive in things like silver polish and as a filtering agent for water processing and beer brewing.

At the conclusion of election day, Robinson, who says he never has to campaign in Livermore for the moderator’s position “because it comes with winning in Lincoln,” will fill out the same paperwork officials in the smallest towns and biggest cities do to tally the Livermore vote.

“It always says ‘zero-zero-zero,’” he said.

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