Chairman Joe Biden recommends that the Democratic National Committee make South Carolina the first state to vote in the 2024 presidential primaries and scrap Iowa’s status as an early voting state entirely.
Biden’s decision infuriated Democrats in New Hampshire — who consider the nation’s first primary a matter of state law — and Democrats in Nevada, who had garnered significant support from progressives and black Democratic groups, Latinos and Asian Americans for their own offer vote first.
“Like my administration, the Democratic Party has worked hard to reflect America’s diversity — but our nominating process does not,” Biden wrote in a letter to members of the DNC’s rules and regulations committee, which is expected to finalize a decision on the voting order this weekend. “For fifty years, the first month of our presidential nomination process has been a valuable part of our democratic process, but it’s time to update the process for the 21st century. I am committed to working with the DNC to achieve this.
The White House plans to vote in South Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada a week later, with Michigan and Georgia filling the final two early voting slots. Iowa would not be one of the early voting states. The decision was first reported by The Washington Post.
The recommended changes would complete a slow overhaul of the presidential primaries underway since the 2000s, when Nevada and South Carolina first joined Iowa and New Hampshire as the first voting states. The new slate of states will be much more diverse — Democratic electorates in South Carolina and Georgia are dominated by black voters — and will also include major metropolitan areas like Detroit and Atlanta for the first time.
Biden also recommends eliminating caucuses, which many state Democratic parties had already begun to abandon. Suffrage advocates and progressives have long complained that caucuses — which can force attendees to wait hours for their vote to be counted — put up unnecessary barriers to participation and also lower turnout rates.
Biden also suggested that this new order should not be permanent. Given the likelihood of Biden running for re-election in 2024 with little opposition within the party, the timing may not matter much. “The Rules and Regulations Committee should review the calendar every four years, to ensure it continues to reflect the values and diversity of our party and our country,” Biden wrote.
It’s clear Biden is rewarding his friends with the decision as much as he seeks to diversify the primaries: His political comeback in 2020 began with a massive victory in South Carolina just weeks after finishing fifth in the dilapidated caucuses of the Iowa in 2020, which were marred by a faulty app that made it difficult to track results.
Iowa and New Hampshire have dominated the early part of the presidential primary calendar since the 1970s, and black and Latino Democrats have long complained about the outsized influence given to two white states.
Iowa’s status as a caucus state and its 2020 fiasco made it clear that Iowa would lose power when the DNC made a decision. But New Hampshire – which is the fourth whitest state in the country – had done nothing similar to deserve such a demotion.
Ray Buckley, the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, quickly issued a statement reiterating that the DNC can do nothing to stop the state from voting first.
“The DNC didn’t give New Hampshire the nation’s first primary and it’s not theirs to take away,” he said. “This news is obviously disappointing, but we will hold our first primary. We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this. Our primary, the first in the country, has been an integral part of our state’s history for over 100 years old and is enshrined in state law.
New Hampshire’s two senators, Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, also released statements lambasting the decision. Shaheen called the decision “short-sighted” and Hassan called it “misguided.”
Michigan Democrats welcomed the decision. “We have always said that any road to the White House is through the heart and President Biden understands that,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes and Representative Debbie Dingell said in a statement.
The addition of Georgia and Michigan could also radically reshape the presidential calendar. Even though states are supposed to vote fourth and fifth, respectively, the large number of delegates they award means that candidates will likely start visiting them early in any campaign.
In 2020, Michigan awarded 125 delegates and Georgia 105 delegates. By comparison, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina combined to award just 114 delegates.
Nevada Democrats, who had pushed to vote first, did not immediately react to Biden’s decision. The state, one of the most diverse in the country, has a large black population, a large Latin American population, and a rapidly growing Asian American community. The Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have all backed the state’s effort to vote first.
The DNC Rules and Regulations Committee will vote this weekend, followed by a DNC-wide vote in February. Either group is unlikely to make major changes at the behest of the White House.