democratic national committee votes to shake up primary calendar elevating south carolina scaled

The Democratic National Committee will follow President Joe Biden’s recommendation to have South Carolina vote first in the 2024 presidential primaries.

The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to follow President Joe Biden’s recommendation and drastically alter the party’s early presidential primary schedule, elevating South Carolina, sidelining Iowa and angering New Hampshire.

The new calendar would also give early voting status to Michigan and Georgia for the first time, significantly increasing the racial and geographic diversity of the early voting states. With Biden unlikely to face a significant primary challenge in 2024 ― and with the DNC likely to revisit the changes before the next primary in 2028 ― it’s unclear how much effect they will have.

Under the new calendar, Democratic primary voting would begin one year from this week. South Carolina would vote first on Feb. 3, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27.

But it’s the elevation of South Carolina to first place that has proved the most controversial, setting up a direct clash with New Hampshire. The Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary status is written into its state law, giving its secretary of state wide leeway to protect its prized status.

“You can try to come and take it, but that is never going to happen,” Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said in his inauguration speech last month. “It’s just not in our DNA to take orders from Washington. We will not be blackmailed. We will not be threatened, and we will not give up.”

New Hampshire Democrats have also argued Biden is making a misstep, and it’s unclear how national Democrats plan to reconcile the new calendar and New Hampshire state law.

Beyond New Hampshire, national progressives have also questioned South Carolina’s elevation, noting its deeply conservative electorate and history of fierce anti-union sentiment.

“South Carolina is already first in the nation at something that it shouldn’t be proud of; it is the lowest-density union state in America,” Faiz Shakir, the 2020 presidential campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wrote in a New York Times opinion piece in December. “It should thus never be in contention to be first on our calendar.”

Supporters of the changes argue they would empower South Carolina’s Black voters, rewarding the most loyal members of the Democratic base.

“Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process,” Biden wrote in a letter to DNC members in December. “We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”

Iowa, whose first-in-the-nation caucuses have long been derided as undemocratic and where voting went haywire in 2020, will no longer have a spot in the early voting calendar.

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