Just two weeks before what is arguably the most important election of our time, the original cast and creative of The West Wing reunited (in what is absolutely, most definitely not a reunion) to release a theatrical staging of the season three episode “Hartsfield’s Landing” as part of a special to benefit When We All Vote. The episode brings together the best of The West Wing – it pairs workplace hijinx with political drama, the height of a primary election with characters’ emotional baggage, all wrapped up in multiple games of chess.
The throughline of this episode is the primary election occurring at 12:01am in Hartsfield’s Landing, New Hampshire. Why is Hartsfield’s Landing so important to the fictional primary election? As CJ explains to the press corp, Hartsfield’s Landing – which has a population of 63 folks, 42 of whom are registered voters – has “predicted the winner in every Presidential election since William Howard Taft.”
Hartsfield’s Landing, while fictional, is based off of two New Hampshire towns, Hart’s Location and Dixville Notch, that actually begin voting at 12:01am due to a New Hampshire law that allows for towns with populations of 100 people or less to begin voting at midnight and close the polls as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots. Unlike the episode, they don’t have a perfect track record at predicting presidential elections, but have come close.
If we had to guess, this episode was selected for this benefit special because the thesis of the episode is that our vote matters. At Josh Lyman’s request, Donna Moss spends the episode trying to convince two residents of Hartsfield’s Landing to vote for the president – and eventually comes to the realization that convincing them how to vote doesn’t matter. What matters is that they vote and that their vote counts for something. When discussing this novel voting phenomena with Josh, CJ says that this one election teaches everyone something about themselves – “that freedom is the glory of God, that democracy is its birthright, and that our vote matters.”
Your vote matters – and you can share this lesson with everyone with this sweatshirt, mug, or poster. You can catch The West Wing Special Benefiting When We All Vote on HBO Max, premiering on October 15, 2020.