Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hawaii Democrats Aim for an April Party-Run Primary in Lieu of Caucuses

The Hawaii Democratic Party on Monday, March 25 released its draft 2020 delegate selection plan for a thirty day comment period.

Traditionally a caucus state, but faced with new encouragements from the DNC concerning participation in that format, Hawaii Democrats have opted instead to pursue a party-run primary for the 2020 cycle. Although the language used in the plan refers to the Saturday, April 4 event as both a preference poll and a primary, the reality is that, much like North Dakota before it, Hawaii Democrats will attempt to broaden participation in the presidential nomination process. At 20 locations around the Aloha state, Hawaii Democrats will be able to vote for their top three preferences in a limited ranked choice voting system between 7am and 3pm on April 4. Additionally, the party will allow for an early vote-by-mail period (with the same limited top three preferences ranked choice system) that stretches from March 3 (Super Tuesday) through March 28.

While that part -- the early vote-by-mail window -- of the process is occurring, Hawaii Democrats will hold precinct meetings to begin the selection process. On Wednesday, March 4 (the day after Super Tuesday), those precinct meetings will choose delegates to the May 23-24 state convention where national convention delegates will be chosen.

This is further evidence of state parties, especially caucus state parties, straying from business as usual. Moreover, it provides at least some credence to the notion that later caucus states -- those not in the February carve-out state window -- are freer to move in the direction of contests that look more like primary election, but primaries conducted by the state parties. North Dakota and Hawaii have followed the sort of "firehouse caucus" model that came out of the discussions dating all the way back to the 2016 national convention in Philadelphia and were noted in the Unity Reform Commission report. Thus far, only Iowa and Nevada -- both states tiptoeing around the New Hampshire primary they bookend -- have attempted to thread a certain needle, maintaining the traditional caucuses while opening the door through early voting and/or virtual caucuses as a means of increasing participation. Neither followed the "firehouse caucus" model and New Hampshire is why.

The remaining caucus states are mostly not actually states at all, but territories. Although there are a few states yet to release their draft delegate selection plans, it is likely that they follow the model more similar to what Hawaii has outlined above. However, it remains to be seen what territorial parties will do with their contests. Time will tell. All drafts are due to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee for review by May 3.

The Hawaii party-run primary date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

2/11/19: Iowa Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan for 2020

3/13/19: North Dakota Democrats Plan to Hold March 10 Firehouse Caucuses

3/21/19: Nevada Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan

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