January 29, 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — A panel of the Democratic National Committee voted Wednesday to give New Hampshire and Georgia more time to make changes that would allow both to be part of a revised group of five states that will begin next year Lead the party’s presidential primaries.

But even as they voted 25-0 to extend the compliance period to June 3, members of the DNC Rules Committee complained about New Hampshire’s ongoing feud with the national party because the new calendar would cost them the chance to to hold the nation’s first primary.

The fight underscores how efforts to shake up the Democratic primary could grow increasingly bitter, even at a time when the party will be counting on staying united as it attempts to close the White House and Senate in 2024 keep.

The DNC rules committee last month voted to approve a plan championed by President Joe Biden that would strip Iowa’s caucus of its traditional pre-primary post and replace it with South Carolina, which would open the February 3 primary. New Hampshire and Nevada will hold joint primaries three days later, with Georgia’s on February 13 and Michigan’s two weeks later. Most of the rest of the country would then vote on Super Tuesday in early March.

The reorganization proposed by Democrats comes after the 2020 Iowa caucus was marred by technical problems. Biden says the new proposed calendar better reflects his party’s deeply diverse voter base, which relies heavily on African-American voters.

The president is also trying to reward South Carolina, where nearly 27% of the population is black, after a crucial victory there reignited his 2020 presidential campaign after losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

These changes are scheduled for official approval by the entire DNC at its meeting next week in Philadelphia for next year’s presidential race.

Nevada and South Carolina have already agreed to meet the requirements of the new calendar. In Michigan, moving the primary date requires an act from the legislature. Democrats control both houses in that state, but they would need Republican support to enact the amendment before the end of February 2024, so it’s not yet clear when the proposed changes might be approved.

The bigger sticking points were New Hampshire and Georgia.

New Hampshire state law requires it to hold the state’s first primary — a rule Iowa only got around by holding a caucus. Leading New Hampshire Democrats say they have successfully discharged that responsibility for more than a century, vowing to simply skip the other states and run the 2024 primary again, regardless of the DNC’s new calendar.

In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sets his state’s first election date. He has indicated that he would only be willing to postpone it if the Republican National Committee pushes to change the date of his Georgia primary, which has not happened.

Wednesday’s vote gave Georgia and New Hampshire more time — but committee members also voiced frustration with New Hampshire.

“I truly believe that making the statements in New Hampshire is irresponsible,” said Lee Saunders, member of the rules committee and president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“I would just ask everyone to cool off a little,” Saunders said.

Rules committee member Leah Daughtry said she was “similarly surprised and frankly shocked” by New Hampshire’s objections to the new calendar. She also dismissed the state’s claims that it shouldn’t lose its spot because of a tradition that goes back more than a hundred years.

“Your point of attaching to this 100-year-old privilege is really quite troubling to me as an African American,” Daughtry said, noting that black women didn’t have the right to vote about a century ago.

JoAnne Dowdell, a member of the New Hampshire Rules Committee, countered that “politics is part of our DNA.”

“We believe it’s possible to raise diverse voices and keep New Hampshire early in the process,” Dowdell said.

The Democrats’ main calendar for 2024 could be contentious if Biden votes for re-election as expected. In that case, Democrats will have little appetite for crafting a robust primary schedule that could allow a major challenger to his own party to run against the president.

The DNC Rules Committee has also already pledged to revise the primary calendar after 2024. Still, any changes it makes for next year — even if there’s ultimately no competitive primary — could help shape future decisions about which states go first, potentially triggering a major shift to where presidential candidates are trying hardest fight when future races start.

Rules committee co-chair Minyon Moore said its members remain committed to the “president’s vision.”

“We want to make sure states have as much time as they need to go through with this process,” Moore said.

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