Showing posts with label constitutional amendment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label constitutional amendment. Show all posts

Saturday, February 18, 2023

New Hampshire Senate Republicans Add a New Layer to Budding 2024 Delegate Fight

The year is young and yet the multi-front battle between a variety of interests in New Hampshire and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) simmers on. 

National Republicans kept the presidential primary in the Granite state in its first-in-the-nation position for 2024. Democrats did not. And while the vocal proponents of the first-in-the-nation primary on both sides of the aisle in New Hampshire have stepped forward to vigorously defend that status, the various state-level actors involved are differently constrained in a matter that highlights well the complexities of a nomination system steeped in federalism and stretched across both governments and political parties. Republicans in the Granite state, for example, feel emboldened while the New Hampshire Democratic Party is stuck between a state law -- and the status it creates for the presidential primary -- and a national party that has taken formal steps to knock the contest from its typical perch in the process. 

But that does not mean Democrats in the state are powerless. Those in the state Senate joined Republicans in unanimously advancing a resolution defending the primary. That was not a move without risks for Democrats in the state. Non-binding though that resolution may have been, the fact that state Senate Democrats supported it en masse could be viewed by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) as another datapoint -- another act of defiance -- that continues to build a case against New Hampshire Democrats. That case may ultimately lead to increased penalties on the New Hampshire Democratic delegation should the party allocate delegates based on a primary that is presumed to go rogue in 2024.

However, that symbolic gesture may be as far as New Hampshire Democrats in the state government are willing to go. None of them signed on to new legislation introduced this week and sponsored by the entire Republican Senate caucus. It is one thing for Granite state Democrats to support the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire presidential primary in spirit, but Republicans have now moved on to second order issues in the process in an effort to shore up the operation of the FITN franchise. 

All 14 New Hampshire Senate Republicans this week introduced SB 271, legislation that moves to protect delegates allocated and selected using the results of the presidential primary, rogue or not.

Here is the text [additions to existing law in bold italics]:
Delegates to National Party Conventions. Amend RSA 653:5 to read as follows:

653:5 Delegates to National Party Conventions. At every presidential primary election, the voters of the state shall vote their preference for party candidates for president and thereby choose the delegates to each presidential nominating convention to which the state is entitled. The New Hampshire delegates so selected shall be seated and have complete voting rights at any national party nominating convention.
That proposed change is apparently a bridge (of defiance) too far for state Senate Democrats, at least in terms of sponsoring the legislation. [Whether support is withheld during subsequent steps of the bill's consideration throughout the legislative process has yet to be seen.] In the near term, this is a costless act for Senate Republicans to attempt to advance this bill. The primary maintains its protection under current Republican National Committee (RNC) rules, and it matters little that there may be a law requiring delegates selected through the compliant primary to be seated at the Republican National Convention. 

It is New Hampshire Democrats who would be drawn into further conflict with the Democratic National Committee if this bill is adopted and signed into law. 

But here is the thing. The catch here is that this sort of legislation, if it ever becomes law, is unlikely to withstand any sort of legal challenge. A national convention determines the rules that govern it and the delegates/delegations that participate in it. State law does not; not in a direct way or as the final say in any event. 

National parties set the rules for a nomination process and then states -- both state governments and state parties -- react to that guidance. In the vast majority of cases state laws and state party rules conform to the national party guidelines. Sometimes they do not. And when they fail to -- when a primary is too early or delegates are allocated in a prohibited manner -- there is a price to pay. National parties have contingencies if not penalties in place to deal with state parties operating in such rogue state scenarios. Moreover, national parties further frown on state parties and affiliated actors in state governments who flaunt the national rules. This is the position Senate Democrats in New Hampshire are in with this legislation. It is one thing to symbolically defend the first-in-the-nation primary, but it is another to attempt to dictate to a national party/national convention how to run part of its process. Courts usually side with the parties in these situations over state law. The parties, after all, retain the first amendment right to freedom of association and that tends to prevail in these sorts of state law versus party rules disputes.

But there is a state law already protecting the primary in New Hampshire that conflicts with national party rules on the Democratic side now too.1 That, too, would seemingly invite a potential court challenge now. Perhaps, but the timing of these things -- the different parts of New Hampshire state law overlapping with the national party rules -- is different. A rogue primary is one thing. There are penalties in place to deal with that and those issues are typically dealt with prior to the commencement of a national convention. See, for example, the Florida and Michigan situation from 2008. 

Dictating in state law whether particular delegates shall be seated at a national convention run by a national party is another thing altogether. While the action of allocating and selecting the delegates happens well in advance of a national convention, the seating part obviously happens at said convention. The window for action is much smaller. And obviously -- and perhaps most importantly -- there are enforcement issues involved. Who under this proposed law is going to make the Democratic National Convention seat those delegates? Well, in the short window of time between any credentials fight over a rogue New Hampshire delegation, potentially at the convention in question, and a presidential candidate being nominated, the courts may be asked to step in. But again, those courts are likely to defer to the national party on the matter. 

And the last thing New Hampshire Republicans likely want to do is invite scrutiny of any law in the Granite state that defines nomination processes in conflict with national party rules. That sets a precedent that possibly undermines New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status even more in future cycles. 

SB 271 may or may not ultimately go anywhere. It is Republican-sponsored legislation in a Republican-controlled state government. But at the outset, it is another symbolic measure that puts state Democrats even more on the defensive. In other words, it is good politics locally, but is unlikely to carry weight outside the borders of the Granite state or in the long term if implemented. 

1 The first-in-the-nation primary law that has been in place since 1975 in New Hampshire has not directly come into conflict with national party rules since 1984 and has been directly protect in DNC rules in every cycle since. ...until 2024.

Friday, February 10, 2023

New Hampshire Senate Advances Resolution Affirming FITN Support

The New Hampshire state Senate on Thursday unanimously voted in favor of a resolution affirming the body's support of the Granite state presidential primary's first-in-the-nation status. 

All 24 senators voted aye on SCR 1:
A RESOLUTION affirming the general court’s support for New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary. 

Whereas, New Hampshire first held a primary election for president in 1916, and has held the first in the nation presidential primary since 1920; and 

Whereas, New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary is a historic and valued landmark in our state and our nation’s democratic culture; and 

Whereas, New Hampshire voters have consistently and proudly had one of the highest participation rates in the nation, cherishing their role in vetting presidential candidates through person-to-person, grassroots campaigning; and 

Whereas, the need to engage with voters across New Hampshire provides a necessary proving ground for candidates wishing to serve in the most powerful office in the world, not only testing their political skills but better preparing them for the Oval Office; and 

Whereas, attempts by national political organizations to alter the presidential nominating calendar and dictate election laws to the people of New Hampshire have been met with widespread, bipartisan condemnation; and 

Whereas, New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary has grown over the past century into a vital part of our state’s identity; now, therefore be it 

Resolved by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring: 

That the general court of the state of New Hampshire hereby affirms its support for New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary, and its confidence in the secretary of state to ensure that New Hampshire’s primary maintain its legal and proper status at least one week before any similar nominating contest. 

That the general court expects all political parties to respect the results of New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary by seating the delegates selected by New Hampshire voters at their national nominating conventions.
The measure now heads to the House side of the General Court.

The concurrent resolution comes just days after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) adopted a set of presidential primary calendar rules that reshuffled the lineup of early states and New Hampshire's traditional place in it. Of course, this is merely a symbolic gesture on the part of the General Court, reasserting its position on the laws New Hampshire. However, the language at the end is of particular note: That the general court expects all political parties to respect the results of New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary by seating the delegates selected by New Hampshire voters at their national nominating conventions.

Granted, the street in this back and forth between the Granite state and the DNC runs two ways. Given the tenor of comments recently made by DNC members in Philadelphia at the winter meeting, it is not difficult to imagine the DNC countering that New Hampshire Democrats respect the rules of the process passed by the national party

In the end, this is a struggle that is likely to continue throughout the consideration of the New Hampshire Democratic Party's delegate selection plan in 2023. And if past is prelude, then legislative Democrats' support of this resolution will factor into not only the consideration of delegate selection plan, but in whether the DNC assesses penalties and how severe they will ultimately be. Florida Democrats, for example, urged leniency in 2007 when the DNC considered (and eventually levied) penalties against the state for planning a rogue primary for 2008. But Democrats in the Sunshine state quickly had the fact that legislative Democrats there voted in favor of moving the primary into violation of national party rules thrown in their faces before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) voted to strip Florida Democrats of all of their delegates.

Again, this vote in New Hampshire is symbolic. It is not an apples to apples comparison to weigh it equally against the actions in Florida a decade and a half ago. The situations are different. In neither case will those legislative actions end up being (or having been) the deciding factor in any penalties decision on the part of the DNCRBC, but it would be foolish to think it will not be a part of the calculus. [And in defense of New Hampshire Democratic state senators, taking this position in favor of the presidential primary's traditional position is just good politics from a local standpoint. To vote against it would be to potentially invite future trouble at the ballot box.]

The back and forth continues.