DemDaily: DNC Navigates Precarious Primaries

June 23, 2023

The schedule for next year's Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses remains in flux, as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) continues to navigate the challenges facing some states in the new lineup.

Background
Under DNC rules, no state can hold a presidential primary or caucus before the first Tuesday in March. Those previously exempted were Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which were granted "waivers" and allowed to hold their contests in early primaries as representative states of each region of the country. 

At the DNC's February Winter Meeting in Philadelphia, delegates approved the recommendation of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) to shuffle the early primary window for the first time since 2008, upending Iowa's coveted "first in the nation" caucus status, held for five decades.

Their decision followed a new review process that reprioritized the nominating order, giving preference to battleground states and those with diverse electorates, including ethnic, geographic and union representation.

While not eliminating caucuses -- private, in-person events run by the political parties themselves -- the process also favored states that conduct a primary, which is run by state and local governments and exercised by 92% of the states.

The result was a new presidential primary calendar for 2024 beginning in South Carolina on February 3, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on February 6, Georgia on February 13 and then Michigan on February 27.

The plan, however, is not without significant legal and political obstacles.

While South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan have since met party requirements to join the new early lineup, Georgia and New Hampshire, whose legislatures are controlled by Republicans, face potentially insurmountable barriers.

In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State and chief election official Brad Raffensperger has endorsed an early primary in 2028 but balked at holding the state's Democratic 2024 presidential primary on a separate date.

National Republicans have no intention of changing their 2024 calendar, which is scheduled to follow the traditional path of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, then South Carolina. They have scheduled their Georgia primary for March 12, 2024, with the Democratic primary still in limbo.

New Hampshire's state constitution mandates that it hold the country's first presidential primary -- a rule Iowa was previously able to circumvent because it held a caucus.

Granite State Democratic officials have condemned moving the state's primary after South Carolina's, and state Republican leaders have vowed that both party primaries will be held on the same date -- February 13, 2024.

The RBC voted on Friday to extend the deadline for finalization of New Hampshire's Democratic primary plan to September 1, but a resolution is far from clear.

Under contention for the state party are the repercussions for violating the new DNC rules, which also includes voting-law changes for states in the early window.

Any state that jumps ahead of the new primary order could face penalties imposed by the DNC, such as limiting the number of delegates the state sends to the national convention. Similarly, candidates who campaign in unsanctioned states can incur party penalties, including limited access to debates, statistical data, and financial resources.

Should Democrats in New Hampshire or Iowa, which is also protesting the process, defy the DNC and move ahead with their previous dates, Biden may not file to be on the ballot in those states.

It may hold little significance in the long run if Biden continues to be the party's presumed nominee, but an unexpected change could disrupt the already historic dynamics of the 2024 presidential election.

RelatedDemDaily: Your Guide to the Democratic National Committee 2/1/23

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: DNC, AP, Axios

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