New Hampshire’s “first-in-the-nation” primary date for 2024 elections to be announced today

New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Scanlan is set to announce Wednesday New Hampshire’s primary date, ending monthslong speculation and controversy involving President Biden, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and state officials. 

For more than 100 years, New Hampshire has traditionally held the first primary election in the country- a point of pride for the small New England state, and since 1975, the state has had a law requiring it be held at least a week before any other primary nominating contest. 

While the Republican National Committee (RNC) continues to embrace New Hampshire as the first primary state, earlier this year, the DNC approved a new early primary schedule, supported by Mr. Biden, that disrupted the traditional Iowa caucus-to-New Hampshire early primary slate that had been in place for over 50 years. It stripped New Hampshire of its esteemed “first-in-the-nation” primary status, and elevated South Carolina to the first primary slot.

New Hampshire Republicans in control of the state government, and state Democrats, disagreed with the DNC’s scheduling change and refused to change state law, willing to risk potential consequences down the line.

Election 2024
Current and past presidential candidate buttons, stickers and memorabilia are displayed on a wall in the visitors center at the New Hampshire Statehouse, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Concord, N.H.

Charles Krupa / AP

“We’re going first whether they like it or not,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican,  in March. “I dare you — come and take it.”

At a press conference in late October, Scanlan told reporters that he was waiting on other early primary states to lock down their primary dates so New Hampshire can comply with its state law.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, 21 Democrats submitted the necessary paperwork and payment to appear on the ballot, including Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, and Marianne Williamson, who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Twenty-four Republicans filed for the New Hampshire GOP nomination, including all of the major candidates, though some, like former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, suspended their campaigns before votes were cast. 

New Hampshire’s primary system is “open,” meaning that “undeclared” voters, who make up more than 39% percent of registered voters in the state, can vote for either Democratic or Republican candidates on primary day. 

The DNC vs. New Hampshire

In February, South Carolina was elevated by the DNC to the top of the Democratic primary calendar, scheduled for Feb. 3, 2024, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada three days later. Georgia and Michigan, two critical battleground states in general elections, were also moved up in the primary calendar, and Iowa was shifted out of early primary voting. 

DNC chair Jamie Harrison said in February that the new primary calendar “expands the number of voices that can be heard,” pointing to the diversity of the new primary states and the number of women voters in those states. In Dec. 2022, Mr. Biden wrote to the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee that it needed to update the primary process “for the 21st century.”

Anyone who runs in the January Democratic primary will not be awarded delegates by the DNC, and it is unclear if the national party would punish New Hampshire Democrats for conducting an unsanctioned election.

New Hampshire is about 93% White, according to the most recent census results, compared to South Carolina, which is about 62% White.

Biden not on the ballot

Mr. Biden’s reelection campaign informed New Hampshire Democrats in late October that Biden would not be filing to appear on the state’s primary ballot, the first sitting president to not appear on their state’s primary ballot in New Hampshire. 

The president’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, wrote to state Democrats that, “the president looks forward to having his name on New Hampshire’s general election ballot as the nominee of the Democratic Party,” adding that Biden, “will tirelessly campaign to earn every single vote in the Granite State next November.” 

Mr. Biden, who can still win the unofficial primary through write-in votes, has not held a campaign event in New Hampshire since announcing his re-election bid, and placed fifth in New Hampshire in the 2020 Democratic primary.

However, that write-in challenge also opened the door to primary challengers within the Democratic Party. 

Phillips, who launched a long-shot primary challenge against Mr. Biden in late October, filed to appear on the state’s primary ballot, and sees Biden’s snub of the Granite State as an opportunity to make inroads among New Hampshire voters. 

At a press conference shortly after filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot, Phillips pledged to return New Hampshire’s “first-in-the-nation” status.

“The country can and must learn from New Hampshire,” Phillips said. 

In response to Phillips’ entry into the race, over 100 New Hampshire Democratic leaders, including former state party chair Kathy Sullivan and documentarian and New Hampshire resident Ken Burns,launched a campaign to encourage state Democrats to write-in Biden on primary day, which is permitted and has historical precedent. 

In 1968, then-President Lyndon Johnson won the New Hampshire primary as a write-in candidate, though he dropped out of the race weeks later.

“I find it somewhat ironic that you disenfranchise a state and then ask for a write-in campaign,” Phillips told reporters after a campaign stop in Hanover, New Hampshire on Monday night, calling a write-in campaign for Mr. Biden “hypocritical,” and “bizarre.”

Ed O’Keefe, Grace Kazarian, Aaron Navarro, and Kathryn Watson contributed reporting. 

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