The rule-making panel of the Democratic National Committee will meet Thursday in Washington, DC, with several questions about the party’s 2024 presidential nominating calendar still unresolved.
The biggest question is the timing of the nominating contests in the longtime early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Earlier this year, national Democrats shifted both states out of their traditional positions at the front of the calendar, but neither state has said exactly when it’s planning to hold its 2024 Democratic contest.
While it’s unlikely the questions surrounding those contests will get resolved at Thursday’s meeting, it’s possible one or both states could face sanctions from the DNC down the road for violating the party’s scheduling rules.
New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status is protected by state law. But under the new Democratic primary calendar, the Granite State’s only chance to hold an early primary is to vote on February 6, 2024, the same day as Nevada and shortly after South Carolina holds its primary on February 3.
New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, a Republican, who is responsible for setting the state’s primary date, said at a Wednesday news conference that he wouldn’t be following the new Democratic timeline.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that we’re going to be going ahead of South Carolina, which puts us into January,” Scanlan said. “I’m just assuming we’re going to be in noncompliance with the Democratic National Committee.”
A January primary date would violate the DNC’s timing rules and could cost the state party delegates to the national convention.
It would also be a violation of party rules for President Joe Biden to campaign in such a January contest in New Hampshire or to even have his name on the ballot, although voters could write him in.
The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee is expected to vote Thursday to give New Hampshire more time to schedule its primary for February 6, a source familiar with the process told CNN.
Scanlan answered “no” Wednesday when asked if he was “OK” with the state losing delegates at the Democratic convention. But he defended New Hampshire’s early-primary status.
“It is more important for New Hampshire to have the early primary because it allows maximum participation from anybody that wants to put their name out there as a candidate,” he said Wednesday. “If the president wins a majority of the vote through write-in and as a result of that is awarded delegates that get sent to the convention, is he really not going to let them in and what is that going to look like from a media perspective? I think the DNC will have some soul-searching to do if that’s going to be the penalty.”
While New Hampshire seems headed towards a conflict with the national party, the situation in Iowa is less clear.
Iowa law requires its caucuses to be held before any other state, and the need to go before South Carolina Democrats is what pushed Iowa Republicans to schedule their caucuses on January 15. Despite the state law, the DNC’s new calendar removed Iowa from the group of early states entirely.
In response, the state party proposed a plan under which it would hold caucuses on the same day as Republicans but would only use them to conduct party business, not to vote for president. The presidential preference vote would be a separate process, conducted entirely by mail.
However, Iowa Democrats haven’t specified the dates for that mail process, and without that information, the DNC rules panel declined to approve the plan at its June meeting.
Party staff said the vote-by-mail period must end on or after March 5 (the date at which every state is allowed to start holding Democratic contests) for the plan to comply with party rules.
While a few other states may still shift their primary dates, the rest of the Democratic calendar is largely set.
After Nevada, Michigan will hold its Democratic primary on February 27, and then the primary season will begin in earnest with Super Tuesday on March 5.