Around this time every four years, everyone from presidential candidates to media pundits, political junkies to everyday citizens start paying quite a bit of attention to the voters of New Hampshire. And if you think that traveling thorough a bevy of small New Hampshire cities and towns this time of year would turn up an abundance of proud voters, eager to talk about the importance of doing their civic duty...well...you’d be right.
"Yes I do vote, absolutely," said Carol Reed, at a senior center in southeastern, New Hampshire. "Every time."
"I think it’s important, yeah, since we’re first," said Lou DiOrio, playing pool at that same senior center. "I make sure I vote."
"I’ve never missed a vote since I was eligible," said Jim Robinson, at Liar's Paradise general store in Nottingham. "I think it’s what you have to do. It’s what you’re supposed to do."
"It’s important you should always vote," said Sean Dolan in Raymond, a town on the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border.
But that last voter, Dolan, said that if you scratch the surface a little, you’ll find there’s another side to that coin. Take his coworkers for instance.
"Everyday they’re all talking about, 'Who do you like?' and all this," he said. "They all seem very into it, but most of them I know don’t even go vote. I can’t think of anybody at work that’s going to go and vote in the primary. They’re like, 'We’ll see who gets the nomination and we’ll vote then,' if they’re even going to do that."
The non-voters Dolan spoke of are far from alone. And they are not just the disaffected few on the fringes. They're everyone from waitresses to cafe workers, retail employees to retirees. At a bowling alley in the small northern city of Berlin I met Travis Roy.
"I have no idea," Roy said. "Beause I don’t understand politics and that’s why I don’t vote. Too much hassle."
Perhaps less eloquent, but equally clear on her position is Mel, a 21-year-old I came across outside a restaurant along Route 16. In her words, "It’s just a bunch of bullshit."
There was the octogenarian who tells me she gave up on voting years ago because she “never seems to pick the winner.” And Sybil Hatch, the 35-year old single mother working at a Hardware store, who says she’s never voted in her life. She has no time to keep up with politics and her vote would just be a “shot in the wind.” Add to the list Cheryl Carter, a yoga instructor at a senior center in the small southeastern town of Raymond.
"The politicians are just saying whatever sounds popular," she said. "There’s too many choices. Usually I wait until it get’s narrowed down a little bit."
Carter never votes in the primary. Like a lot of residents, she finds the grueling, seemingly interminable campaign season too taxing. There are the knocks on the door, the endless emails, that attack ads, and the relentless phone calls; sometimes 10 a night.
"It’s such a huge deal with the phone calls and everything else that honestly I get burned out before they’ve even really have got started," she said.
She said she does usually rebound, and vote in the general election. Sydney Sullivan, a recently retired nursing professional? No way, no how.
"I don't think my vote counts," Sullivan said. "I don't have enough money, I don't have enough power."
Sullivan clearly follows politics. She knows the candidates and their positions. Still, she won’t be moved.
"They’ve never had me hooked," she explained. "Because I never believed that my vote would count. Corporations run it, money runs it. These guys are millionaires they don’t represent us. Who do they represent? Other millionaires."
Despite his own issues with politics and government, Sullivan’s husband John, a former military lieutenant commander, says he always votes. But his friends are jumping ship left and right.
"Quite a few," he said. "A lot of educated people; psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses. A lot of them have given up on the system."
No election in the now 100-year history of the New Hampshire primary saw more voters than 2008, and then only 52 percent of the eligible voting population weighed in. So whatever choices the folks here in the Granite State make on Tuesday, keep in mind that it will be the will of roughly half of the people.