A vote-here sign, pictured on Nov. 8, 2022, at the All Souls Church on Cliff Avenue in Sioux Falls. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)
WASHINGTON — The full Democratic National Committee is set to vote in just days about a decision to ratify a new lineup of five states that would lead the nation in primary voting for Democratic presidential candidates in 2024.
But approval of the new calendar at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 4 in Philadelphia won’t be the last step in what’s become a contentious process.
Democrats in New Hampshire will still need to get their Republican-controlled state government to change a law that says the state must schedule its primary ahead of similar contests and to expand access to early voting — both of which GOP lawmakers have said they won’t do.
Georgia Democrats also will need to get their GOP secretary of state to change the state’s presidential primary date to match the DNC’s requirements — a similarly unlikely feat.
If the two states’ Democrats don’t, in fact, get Republicans to follow along with the DNC’s plan, waivers will become void, moving New Hampshire and Georgia back into the so-called regular window that begins in March.
The waivers allow the five states to vote before the regular window if those states implement the dates and policies the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee detailed during its December meeting.
New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan said Thursday that the “state law is very clear that we will go first.”
“There is a way for us to make sure that we are honoring all the values of the Democratic Party with New Hampshire going first,” Hassan said. “And it’s really important that the DNC develop a proposal that is actually one that all of the participants can meet.”
The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which originally approved the new slate of early voting states in December, voted this week to give New Hampshire and Georgia through June 3 to show the national party that the states were moving to match the DNC’s vision.
Similar extensions weren’t necessary for South Carolina, Nevada, or Michigan, which have met the requirements to get the waiver, allowing the three states to vote early without incurring the wrath of the national party.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee, which is spearheading the process, is expected to meet again shortly after the new June 3 deadline, according to an individual familiar with the process who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
During that meeting, panel members are likely to discuss whether New Hampshire and Georgia have met the requirements needed to vote early, or if the waivers the full DNC will vote to approve next week have become void.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Thursday the extension until June 3 is unlikely to change much.
“Well, I appreciate that they provided the extension. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to make much difference because the Republican governor and the Republican legislative leadership have been very clear they don’t intend to make the changes that the DNC has requested,” Shaheen said.
“And I think it’s unfortunate for the DNC to put at risk Democratic elected officials in the state, because of those rules,” Shaheen added.
Waivers would become void
If New Hampshire Republicans don’t take steps during the next four months to match the proposed Feb. 13 primary election day and expand access to early voting, then the waiver the DNC is set to approve Feb. 4 would become void automatically.
That would mean New Hampshire no longer has the DNC’s approval to vote ahead of the regular window, which begins the first Tuesday in March.
If the state were to hold its Democratic presidential primary ahead of that benchmark, the DNC would bar Democratic presidential candidates from campaigning in the state, including placing their name on the ballot. The DNC would also strip New Hampshire Democrats of half of their delegates.
The same would be true for Georgia’s Feb. 20 waiver, though Peach State voters aren’t as tied to the “first-in-the-nation” primary distinction that New Hampshire has clung to for years.
Georgia voters tend to head to the primary polls a bit later in the process, casting their ballots on June 9 for the 2020 presidential primary, March 1 during the 2016 primaries and March 6 for the 2012 primary.
So if Georgia doesn’t complete the steps outlined in the waiver a DNC panel approved in December and extended this week, the state would likely just vote during the so-called regular window that begins the first Tuesday in March.
Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff said Thursday that his home state moving up in the presidential primary voting process would be beneficial, though he deferred to the secretary of state when asked if the additional time would move the needle.
“It would be great for Georgia and Georgia would benefit from being earlier in the process,” Ossoff said. “So we will see how the process plays out.”
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