The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Saturday approved an adjusted early presidential primary state schedule, formalizing their intentions to move Iowa out of the early lineup and shake up the order, with South Carolina going first.
DNC committee members approved an early presidential primary schedule through a voice vote during the winter meeting in Philadelphia that begins with South Carolina, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on the same day, then Georgia, and Michigan fourth.
“The Democratic Party looks like America, and so does this proposal,” said DNC Chair Jamie Harrison, promoting the new changes ahead of a contested debate and vote over the adjusted primary states.
“This calendar does what is long overdue. It expands the number of voices in the early window, and it elevates diverse communities that are at the core of the Democratic Party,” he added.
The DNC has already given Georgia and New Hampshire an extension into early June to comply with the committee’s request to change their primary day and expand early voting access, amid concerns that they may be unable to do so in time — or at all.
Given that both Georgia and New Hampshire have GOP-controlled legislatures and Republican secretaries of state and governors, changing their state’s respective primary processes could prove challenging. It’s unclear how Democrats might proceed if both states are unable to comply with the new early presidential primary calendar.
DNC committee members from states like Iowa and New Hampshire urged their colleagues ahead of the vote not to support the changes, arguing the DNC would unfairly penalize their states if they could not comply with the changes in time or that the shift could be weaponized against Democrats by Republicans. Others argued that the DNC was stripping states of their voice in the early nominating process.
“It is frustrating because the DNC is set to punish us despite the fact we don’t have the ability to unilaterally change law — state law,” said New Hampshire DNC committeewoman Joanne Dowdell.
“We are frustrated because the Republicans in the state are already weaponizing this proposed calendar and using it to attack Democrats up and down the ballot. And we are frustrated because, as many times as we say it, no one seems to listen when we say that this will only hurt President Biden in our purple battleground state.”
Indeed, after the DNC voted to adopt the new primary schedule, the New Hampshire Republican Party blasted President Biden for the shift in its early presidential primary schedule.
“It’s clear that our inept President – who was soundly rejected by NH Democrat primary voters in 2020 – is attempting to retaliate against those voters. Punishing New Hampshire is a deeply flawed logic. Instead, the DNC should listen to what Granite Staters were telling them – reject Joe Biden” New Hampshire GOP Chair Chris Ager said in a statement.
Scott Brennan, DNC committeeman from Iowa and a member of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, argued he was not against the proposed changes to the primary schedule “as a knee jerk reaction to my state being removed from the nominating calendar, but from a genuine concern that the proposed calendar and the vast uncertainty surrounding it to not be resolved in a timely fashion.”
But other Democrats argued that the changes were long overdue and that they were promoting states that were aligned with the country’s diversity.
“Here’s the reality: No one state should have a lock on going first,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who’s also a DNC member from Michigan.
The DNC’s winter meeting comes as President Biden sent a letter to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee asking them to readjust the existing presidential primary calendar, which had Iowa holding its caucuses first, followed by New Hampshire as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Biden has asserted the decision in part allows a more diverse demographic of voters to come earlier in the nominating process. At the same time, others have noted that South Carolina helped to turn Biden’s presidential prospects around in 2020 when he placed first in their primaries.
“Our early states must reflect the overall diversity of our party and our nation – economically, geographically, demographically. This means more diverse states earlier in the process and more diversity in the overall mix of early states,” he wrote to the Rules and Bylaws Committee in December.
“Working class families are the backbone of our economy. Union households must be represented in greater numbers than before. We need to include voters from many backgrounds, not to ratify the choice of the earliest states, but as full stakeholders in making the choice,” he added.
— Updated at 1:36 p.m.