RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Voters in North Dakota famously like to mix things up - sending one party to the White House; the other, to Congress. In a closely watched Senate race there, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp narrowly leads the count vote - the vote count. But Republican Rick Berg says he won't concede the race until a recount is complete.
The race hinged on voters like those our reporter Neta Ulaby found.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: It's a tale of two ticket-splitters. Both are registered Republicans who braved the bite of the November prairie winds, to vote in an elementary school in West Fargo. Ticket-splitter number one is named Gary Hanson. He just turned 70.
GARY HANSON: Happy for that, I guess; that I'm still around. But ...(Laughter)
ULABY: Hanson voted for Mitt Romney. And for U.S. Senate?
HANSON: For somebody from my hometown - Heidi Heitkamp.
ULABY: Wait - she's a Democrat. But Gary Hanson says his vote was not about the politics, but...
HANSON: The person. The person - and I think she's a person of great character and ethics. And she has a lot of sound values.
ULABY: But our second ticket-splitter, Nicole Christianson, voted against Heitkamp for Senate. She voted for the Republican, Rick Berg. Christianson is 28, a pharmacist, and...
NICOLE CHRISTIANSON: I work in a community health center, so I did vote for Obama.
ULABY: For Obama.
CHRISTIANSON: He was very instrumental in providing a grant four years ago, for us to open a new community health center, called Family Healthcare. So thatâs why I voted for him.
ULABY: Ticket-splitting is a proud North Dakota tradition. The state's voted for Republican presidents, and a Democratic senator, regularly - for decades. One resident explained the logic like this: You need the Democrats to get the money. You need the Republicans, to keep it in the state.
Neda Ulaby, NPR News, Fargo.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.