New Hampshire voters streamed into town halls, schools and community centers on Tuesday to cast ballots in a Democratic primary fight that could winnow the crowded field of presidential hopefuls.
The first-in-the-nation presidential primary follows last week’s Iowa caucuses, which were marred by technical issues that left both Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders claiming victory.
Eleven Democrats, two Republicans and scores of long shots are all on Tuesday’s ballot, hoping for a chance to take on incumbent President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term.
Local election officials reported a steady flow of voters and no major problems with voting machines at hundreds of polling stations across the state. Results were expected after the last polls closed at 8 p.m.
In Windham, Town Moderator Peter Griffin said nearly a quarter of the town's 10,000 registered voters, or about 2,300, had cast ballots by 1 p.m.
"It's been steady all day," Griffin said.
On the Democratic side, polls ahead of Tuesday showed Vermont Sen. Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Buttigieg were favored among likely New Hampshire voters, trailed by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Klobuchar, who has risen in the polls after her strong debate performance on Friday, was hoping to build on that momentum; while Warren was looking to rebound after her third-place showing in Iowa.
And Biden, who finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, was hoping for a better-than-expected outcome in New Hampshire to help reclaim his status as the perceived frontrunner in the race.
Among Republicans, Trump appeared to be in a solid position, polls show, despite a primary challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh — who dropped out of the race Friday.
Many Granite State voters were undecided, polls showed, and candidates were still crisscrossing the state on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to win them over.
Christine Lehoullier, an undeclared voter, was among dozens who converged on Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry on Tuesday morning. She was still undecided while walking into the building.
"I will make a thoughtful walk to the booth," Lehoullier said.
Outside a polling station at Hampstead Middle School, Rick Hartung stood in the morning drizzle holding a sign for Buttigieg. He had already made up his mind.
"He's a fresh face," said Hartung, a former town selectman. "He's very intelligent, articulate and has plans to do some good things."
Nicole Demers, a Salem Democrat, voted for Sanders in 2016 and said she enthusiastically supported him in this primary. She said Sanders is the best chance for Democrats to reclaim the White House.
"He’s the only one in the race that’s talking about real change," she said. "It’s not good enough just to get rid of Trump. We need to make the political system work for everyone, not just the rich.”
Trump backer Ken Patey of Hampstead said he was pleased to see a robust show of support for the president even though the outcome on the Republican side was less uncertain.
"I'm amazed at the people," Patey said. "The amount coming out to support Trump is unbelievable."
Kerry Stap of Windham was one of the few signs of Weld's support outside Hood Middle School.
Stap said she has voted as a Democrat in previous elections but is concerned that the Democratic Party has shifted too far to the left. On Tuesday, she pulled a GOP ballot and voted for Weld.
"I think he's a uniter," Stap said of Weld, "socially progressive, and fiscally more responsible than saying everything is free."
In New Hampshire, "undeclared" or independent voters can choose a Democratic or a Republican ballot at their polling places.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted a big turnout in a state where undeclared voters make up about 41% of an electorate of more than a million registered voters.
Just past midnight on Tuesday, a handful of residents in tiny Dixville Notch cast the first ballots in the state's primary, as has been the tradition for more than 60 years.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who isn't on the New Hampshire ballot, received three of five write-in votes, The Associated Press reported. The other votes went to Buttigieg and Sanders.
New Hampshire's isn't a winner-take-all primary, so the state's 24 Democratic delegates will be awarded proportionately to the top candidates. A candidate must meet a 15% threshold to receive delegates.
Under the Democratic Party's rules, a candidate needs to pick up at least 1,991 delegates from state primaries to win the nomination ahead of the party's national convention this summer.
There's a lot at stake for candidates, and the nation, in the Democratic primary.
Democrats are hoping to coalesce around a candidate who can retake the White House from a president they say has abused the office for political gain and divided the nation with his policies and rhetoric.
Republicans, energized by Trump's acquittal last week in the Senate impeachment trail, are hoping to give the billionaire real estate mogul another four years to implement his "America First" agenda.
Alan Panteau, 66, a Windham Republican, wasn’t worried about Trump’s chances in Tuesday’s GOP primary but wanted to show his support for a president he says has been treated unfairly.
"The Democrats tried to steal the election by impeaching Trump and it didn’t work," he said after voting at Windham High School. "He’s looking out for America and we need to get his back."