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First in the nation no longer? Scrapping N.H. and Iowa's status possible for Democrats in 2024

A photo of a person approaching a table with voting booths in the background.
Sara Ernst

The Democratic National Committee approved a resolution last week that will change the way the party chooses presidential candidates. States will now have to make a case for why they should be allowed to have contests at the first stage of the nominating calendar, and among that group of states is New Hampshire, which historically has the first-in-the-nation primary.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to make the change in an effort to focus on more diverse battleground states. As two mostly white states, New Hampshire and Iowa have been criticized for a lack of ability to represent the demographics of the entire country. New Hampshire’s Rules and Bylaws Committee representative Joanne Dowdell spoke with All Things Considered host Peter Biello about what this change means for New Hampshire’s primary position.

Here are some takeaways:

Does Dowdell think New Hampshire will keep its position at the top of the calendar?

Yes. She has “full confidence” New Hampshire will remain the first-in-the-nation primary.

Is New Hampshire racially diverse enough to make a case for itself to maintain its primary position?

Dowdell says yes, but when considering “diversity” it shouldn’t be limited to race and ethnicity. She says New Hampshire has economic and educational diversity, geographic diversity and “diverse points of view.”

Other states have challenged New Hampshire’s position before, but this is a national party trying to challenge the traditional order. Is this more of a threat to New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status?

Dowdell says no. Under New Hampshire’s Title 63, state law requires elections to be held the second Tuesday in March, or seven days preceding the date which any other state holds a similar election, whichever comes first. With this codified, Dowdell says she believes “very strongly” that the Granite State will maintain its position.

If New Hampshire’s position is disrupted by the DNC, but it moves forward with an effort to keep its primary first, the DNC could bar delegates from New Hampshire at the party’s conventions. Would  Democrats in the state be willing to take that risk in exchange for the first spot? 

Dowdell says she doesn’t think that’s a question the state Democratic Party will have to contemplate.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.

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