Drop your ballots right in: State’s outhouse ‘voting booth’ is back

  • The Outhouse Voting Booth at Owens Farm Stand in Holderness. Sean Hurley / NHPR

  • Chris Owens with this year's farm stand special item - Brussels sprouts on the stalk. Sean Hurley—NHPR

  • Inside the outhouse voting booth. Sean Hurley / NHPR

Published: 10/27/2020 4:38:47 PM

For the past two presidential elections, farmer Chris Owens has conducted an informal vote at his vegetable stand in Holderness. Visitors are invited to drop a ballot into an outhouse toilet of their choosing - one assigned to each of the major candidates.

Listen to the radio version of the story here. Editor’s note: We highly recommend listening to this story

Just a few days away now, the presidential election and Halloween seem to have merged into a single spooky something or other at Owens Farm Stand in Holderness. American flags flutter over scary masks and the pumpkin patch is festooned with political signs.

In front of his voting booth outhouse, Chris Owens introduces me to the two nightmarish figures manning – or maniking – the outhouse door. “The one of Biden’s really good and the one that’s Trump is just as well,” Owens says. “He looks like a maniac. The mask is not so good but everybody knows it’s him.”

Joe Biden doesn’t have hands. Donald Trump wears gardening gloves. Biden stands on one side of the door in a dark trenchcoat – a rope around his waist so he doesn’t tip over. In dirty T-shirt and shorts, Donald Trump needs no rope, he can even balance on one barefoot.

Both manikins look deliriously happy, the Bill and Ted of the Presidential Set, Chris Owens thinks. “We’re not taking sides at all,” he says.

“You have a chance to vote for both. We have both of them featured out there. We got toilet seats for both of them. What more can we do? We even have Trump toilet paper this year.”

Even though Owens, a Biden supporter, worked hard to make his outhouse look impartial – things have not gone smoothly.

“We’ve had several fights here. We’ve lost a couple customers,” Owens tells me. “Oh, the Democrats and the ones that want him out, want him out bad! And the Trump people are just as crazy. They’ve been having rallies over town, they’ve had parades. And their signs are like, as big as a house. Wherever you go. You go out past Plymouth towards Rumney, Warren, Wentworth it’s Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump!”

Which little chant gets his chickens clucking. ‘Bock’ is the more traditional word, Owens tells me as he demonstrates and the chickens call back to him.

You can buy produce, talk with the chickens, and drop a ballot in your preferred candidates’ toilet all this week at Owens Farm Stand – but the straw poll closes on Saturday.

“Halloween!” Owens says and smiles. “Couldn’t ask for a better date to tally them votes!”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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