Monday, January 16, 2023

Post-2022 Partisan Control of State Government and 2024 Presidential Primary Movement

What if anything do the 2022 midterm results mean for primary movement on the 2024 presidential primary calendar

Part of that question was actually answered back in August when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) finalized all of the delegate selection rules for the 2024 cycle except one section. That exception? The pre-window calendar rules and exemptions. And why did the panel wait? They pushed pause on finalizing the early calendar because the midterms were going to be determinative in just how ambitious Democrats could be in reworking the calendar. A Republican surge would have meant something more like the status quo would have prevailed while a Democratic hold or gains would have given the DNCRBC a bit more latitude in changing things. 

The results ended up closer to the latter and Democrats swung big in booting Iowa and (effectively) New Hampshire from the pre-window in the adopted calendar proposal for 2024. 

That has largely been the story thus far for 2024 primary movement, prospective or otherwise. And that is unusual. It is atypical for a party currently occupying the White House to tinker with its delegate selection rules, especially when the incumbent president is signaling a run for reelection. Very simply, incumbent presidents of the post-reform era have made a habit of demonstrating that they like the rules that got them to the nomination in the first place and have tended to carry them over for the most part to their reelection cycle. 

That has not been the case with the Biden administration of the DNCRBC following the 2022 midterms. Instead of the focus being on Republican-controlled states angling to better position their primaries and caucuses for a competitive nomination cycle, the spotlight has been on two states tabbed to be a part of the new Democratic pre-window lineup. Two states where Democrats did not gain sufficient state legislative or gubernatorial seats to change the tide. That is, the talk has been about Georgia and New Hampshire not moving because Republicans in both state governments stand in the way. 

But the DNC calendar rules are not finalized yet and will not be until the February winter meeting at the earliest. Georgia and New Hampshire will continue to be stories in the process, but may force Democrats to look elsewhere to states that may be better able to implement changes. Given the national party's preference for state-run contests, any changes to move additional states' contests around will occur in state legislatures across the country. 

The other side of this, of course, is that Republicans did not flip control of any state legislative chambers in 2022. And the only gubernatorial seat the GOP gained was in Nevada, where Democrats retained control of the legislature (and the primary is already early on the calendar). As a component of possible primary movement, the lack of a typical out-party surge in the midterms did not portend pronounced primary movement. 

Another significant component is that Republicans are still dealing with the fallout of the primary movement from the 2012 cycle. As a quick primer on 2012, one has to go back to the 2004 cycle when Democrats aligned their calendar rules with those of the Republicans. Both parties allowed February contests for the first time then. While that set off some movement toward the new early, most states did not catch on to the rules change and act until the 2008 cycle. But that rush to the front of the queue was marked not just by states trying to shift to the earliest date allowed by the two major parties -- the first Tuesday in February -- but by a handful risking penalties to go beyond that point, threatening the positions of the earliest states exempted from national party rules. That pushed Iowa and New Hampshire to the brink of conducting contests in 2007, something that decision makers in neither national party seemed to prefer. 

And that influenced the calendar rules for 2012. The parties informally brokered a later start to primary season, nixing February as the earliest point during which non-exempt states could hold contests. Both parties nudged that starting time back to the first Tuesday in March for the 2012 cycle. But that left nearly 20 states in the lurch. All had February or early contests on the books. And all 20 needed to change state laws in order to come back into compliance with the new national party rules.

That change set off a flurry of activity on the state level in 2011. But there was a pattern to it. With an active Republican presidential nomination race on the horizon, the Republican-controlled states among that 20 tended to move back but less so. They mostly ended up in March. Democratic-controlled states, on the other hand, pushed even further back on the calendar with less at stake. 

And that is the legacy of 2012. The March start point for most states is still there in the national party rules and so are most of the Republican states. Some of the Democratic ones have even come back. That is not to say that there are not Republican-controlled states later in the calendar. There are. But there just is not a lot of movement that can happen at this point. Not movement forward anyway. 

In the end, there will be primary movement for 2024. Some has already happened prior to 2023. But the point here is to hone in on just how much movement can happen. Some can, but this is neither 2008 nor 2012. The changes on the Democratic side will likely push at least Iowa and New Hampshire into January and bring Michigan at a minimum into the pre-window. Other than that, however, there may be some incremental changes to comply with the new national Republican rules that will affect the end of the calendar. Unified Republican control in Montana and South Dakota ought to make those changes easier. 

The 2022 midterm elections saw relative stability across the board, and the lack of change there will affect how much the calendar is able to change in 2023. So far the outlook suggests limited tweaks. But it is still early.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Iowa Back in the Democratic Pre-Window?

During the last month or so there has been significant chatter about not to mention back and forth between New Hampshire Democrats and the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) over the position of the Granite state presidential primary on the 2024 Democratic presidential primary calendar. But that has mostly overshadowed the impact the proposed calendar overhaul has had on the other traditional lead-off state, Iowa. 

Sure, the caucuses in the Hawkeye state were ousted from their spot at the head of the class in the Democratic presidential nomination process for first time in the last half century. However, more (national) attention has been paid to the defiance of New Hampshire Democrats, who received a pre-window waiver (albeit with a demanding set of conditions), than to Iowa Democrats also potentially breaking the rules to continue occupying the top slot. 

Placed on the back burner in reality or not, the Iowa situation has not gone anywhere. In fact, the recent deadline for the states granted contingent pre-window waivers by the DNCRBC to check in with their progress did not go unnoticed. When it was revealed that Georgia and New Hampshire had both fallen short of meeting the state-specific mandates from the national panel, Iowa Democrats took the opportunity to lobby once again to be reinserted into the lineup. 

In a letter to the DNCRBC, Ross Wilburn, outgoing Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) chair, astutely leaned on the feasibility argument that weighed so heavily on the panel down the stretch in their decision-making process. Those potential complications forced the committee to punt on a calendar decision until after the 2022 midterms. As Wilburn wrote:
"The Iowa Democratic Party believes that, with two states apparently unable to meet the criteria set forth as conditions of a waiver, within the timeline set forth by this committee, we have a compelling case to be granted a conditional waiver for a pre-window contest. As a state party run contest, we retain the ultimate ability to tailor our contest to RBC rules and specifications and maintain a flexibility that states with state-run contests cannot. To that end, we request consideration for a conditional waiver be considered at the February meeting of the RBC."
Honing in on the revised, fully-absentee caucuses that the IDP pitched to the DNCRBC in the summer, Wilburn continued:
"The process we proposed allowed flexibility as to the date while complying with Iowa law. We believe that Iowa can be an important part of the solution to an early nominating calendar by providing flexibility with its new process."
But Wilburn was not the only one making the case. Iowa's sole member of the DNCRBC, Scott Brennan also weighed in:
"We view this as an opportunity to go back and say, 'Take another look, you made a mistake with us the first time. We're willing to forgive and forget and take our spot back in the pre-window."
Brennan added that Iowa Democrats "stand ready, willing and able to fill in" before setting expectations for the coming weeks before the DNC presumably votes on finalizing the early calendar:
Brennan said he expects the committee will discuss Wilburn’s request at its February meeting, but meet virtually in the meantime in the next couple of weeks to discuss granting a deadline extension for New Hampshire and Georgia.
Even Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) added her two cents during her second inaugural speech this past week:
To the national Democrats, to President Biden, I say this: Reconsider,” she said. “Come back to Iowa, and you won’t regret it.
None of this is unexpected. The Iowa loose end will have to be tied off at some point by either the DNCRBC or the Iowa Democratic Party. But until (and perhaps after) the DNC finalizes the 2024 calendar rules, the IDP clearly has no qualms about continuing to pitch the caucuses as a solution to any implementation problems other states may have. 

But one thing this highlights that I do not think has been emphasized enough since the DNCRBC handed down its proposal in December is that that action has so far served as a massive wedge in between a host of institutionalized traditions that have developed during the post-reform era with Iowa and New Hampshire at the front of the queue. 

Think about how both parties in each state may have differed on every policy position under the sun, but agreed on one thing, keeping their respective states first in the presidential primary order. That bipartisanship still exists in both states, but it has been weakened. State parties in Iowa and New Hampshire are still fighting to remain first, but Republicans in both states have not been shy about pointing out how the DNCRBC decision means that national Democrats do not care about the interests of either state. And neither have Democrats in the two states been unwilling to tell the national party what the decision may mean for Democrats in their states or nationally. That past togetherness on the matter between Democrats and Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire is gone. 

And that is not the only wedge. The DNCRBC decision has also undermined the Iowa/New Hampshire relationship. It has not always been the case, yet both states have done well to band together to ward off threats in the past. Now, those threats were from other potential rogue states and not a change in national party rules, but Iowa and New Hampshire would work together. Iowa Democrats even consulted with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in the lead up to the 2020 cycle to insure that any changes to the caucus process in the Hawkeye state would not run afoul of the state law in the Granite state. 

That working relationship now seems to be gone too in the aftermath of the DNCRBC adoption of the calendar rules package. New Hampshire Democrats failed to meet the DNCRBC stipulations by January 5, and Iowa Democrats did not hesitate to offer the caucuses up as a substitute. That would not have happened in the past. 

None of that was by design, per se. The DNCRBC and the Biden administration simply wanted to change up the states and order of the contests in the pre-window. But it would be a mistake not to make note of the extent to which that has already eroded rituals if not instincts that have developed in the post-reform era, traditions primary watchers could be excused for taking for granted. 

In the end, as the DNC winter meeting approaches at the beginning of February, Iowa may or may not prove to be a suitable substitute. However, the DNCRBC did not support a plan that included five state-run contests by accident. It has a preference for them. That is why the Iowa caucuses -- feasibility of movement aside -- should be discounted as much as New Hampshire Democrats potentially offering to shift to a party-run contest in order to comply with the DNCRBC proposal (which they have not done and likely will not).

Of course, that may leave the DNCRBC with other imperfect possibilities relative to the criteria it has used during the selection process. Then again, Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats may just ignore them anyway. But that is another matter. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Legislative Odds and Ends from New Hampshire with 2024 Implications

There is obviously a long way to go but the first two weeks of the 2023 session in the closely divided state legislature in Concord have already produced some interesting bills. And it is legislation that would have some impact on 2024 in the state that traditionally holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Two in particular -- one from each side of the aisle -- have been introduced in the early going. 

1. Provable, positive steps from New Hampshire Democrats
FHQ has done a lot of talking about actions taken or not taken by New Hampshire Democrats in the time since the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adopted a 2024 primary calendar proposal that would push the presidential primary in the Granite state back in the order for the upcoming cycle. But earlier in the week, I discussed the opportunities that New Hampshire Democrats may have to extricate themselves from the predicament in which the party finds itself. Taking those actions -- making provable, positive steps toward the goals set by the DNCRBC to retain their early calendar status -- might not keep the party from being penalized, but it might lessen the penalties. 

Legislation was offered last week by one Democrat that falls into that category. Rep. Barry Faulkner (D-10th, Cheshire) introduced HB 586 which would expand absentee voting access in the Granite state. Now, while it does not go as far as the sort of "no excuse" absentee voting that was voted down in the state Senate in 2021 (SB 47), the measure would expand the list of excuses to receive an absentee ballot to include health and safety concerns (beyond disability) and a "lack of convenient and affordable transportation." Clearly, that is a provable, positive step that moves toward the DNCRBC mandate for an early calendar waiver. But it ultimately would likely fall short and does nothing to change the date of the presidential primary, the heavier lift for New Hampshire Democrats.

That is not nothing, but it likely would not be enough in the eyes of those on the DNCRBC who will serve as final arbiters on the New Hampshire primary situation. 

2. A potential own goal by Granite state Republicans
On the Republican side, Rep. Mike Moffett (R-4th, Merrimack) and Rep. Joseph Guthrie (R-15th, Rockingham) introduced HB 101, legislation that would close primaries in New Hampshire to only those who affiliate with a political party. This is an age-old, intra-party question pitting pragmatists against purists that waxes and wanes over time but has surged in recent years during both the Tea Party and MAGA eras. While the phenomenon is not exclusive to the Republican Party, that has been where purists have pushed most often and most forcefully for closed primaries. 

But closing off primary participation would go against the grain in New Hampshire. The tradition of independents voting in primaries for offices up and down the ballot is storied, but has been part and parcel of the presidential primary process in the state for decades. However, this legislation does not just break with tradition in the Granite state, it comes at a particularly inopportune time. With state Democrats embroiled in a fight with their national party over the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire presidential primary, Republicans in the state would be passing up a prime opportunity to potentially more easily woo independent voters in the 2024 presidential primary with the general election and the state's four electoral votes in mind. 

To close the presidential primary to only registered Republicans would be political malpractice in that light. 

Look, neither of these bills are likely to go anywhere. If the fate of the bill in the 2021 session is any guide, then Republicans in the state House are likely to balk at any expanded absentee voting measure (even a scaled down one). And although there may be some Republican support for closing primaries in the Granite state, it likely will fall short of unifying the caucus behind a bill that would essentially have the party cut off its nose to spite its face. Still, this is the sort of legislative wrangling that happens not just in Concord but in state legislatures across the country. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Roadblock to an Earlier Michigan Presidential Primary?

Yes, Democrats control state government in Michigan after the 2022 midterms. 

Yes, there is now legislation to bring the Michigan presidential primary in line with the calendar proposal adopted by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) last month.

But none of that necessarily means that obstacles do not stand in the way of the state's Democrats coming into compliance with the DNC's likely rules for the 2024 cycle. The legislation -- SB 13 -- is simple enough and non-controversial to the Democratic majority, but state legislative rules may gum up the works with respect to the legislation moving seamlessly through the legislature and being implemented in time for February of next year.

The Detroit News reports that even though the Democrats holding the levers of power in Lansing plan a "rapid" consideration of the presidential primary date change, they may need Republican help in the state House to make it happen. 
The reason is because the Michigan Constitution requires bills to take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session unless two-thirds of the lawmakers in each chamber vote to give them "immediate effect."
That "immediate effect" measure matters because Democrats hold only a narrow majority in the state House, short of a two-thirds advantage, and the legislature typically adjourns at the end of the year. Late December 2023 is within 90 days of the proposed new position of the Michigan presidential primary on February 27, 2024. 

In other words, Michigan Democrats may need state House Republicans to get the primary date change over the finish line. And therein lies the rub. Although Republicans in the Great Lakes state may in theory support and earlier primary and a potentially larger voice in the presidential nomination process in 2024, Republican National Committee (RNC) rules prohibiting primaries and caucuses other than the four typical carve-out states before March 1 may deter cooperation in the effort. Assisting state Democrats now in shifting the presidential primary into February may cost Michigan Republicans around three-quarters of their national convention delegates in 2024.

That is a steep price and was intended to be when the RNC added the penalty for the 2016 cycle. But just because there are national party rules against any particular maneuver on the state level does not mean that Republicans in any given state will follow along blindly. There may, then, be enough Republican support to push SB 13 through the House and immediately thereafter take effect.

Of course, even if Republicans in the minority pull together in united opposition to the move in the Michigan state House, Democrats will still have tools at their disposal to bring the primary move to fruition. If the majority completes their 2023 work in time, the Democrats will still have the ability to adjourn the session early enough that there is at least a 90 day cushion between that point and February 27, 2024. 

Two footnotes to this:

1. National party cross-pressures
The politics of this are interesting because of the dynamics that exist between what is happening in Lansing and how legislators there are being cross-pressured by the national parties' rules if not the national parties themselves. Michigan Democrats want SB 13 to move "rapid[ly]" in order to meet the February 1 deadline to have the primary moved that the DNCRBC-adopted calendar rules package set in December. There is probably some wiggle room on that deadline as long as the legislature is making progress. 

But the Republican side of this equation raises some questions. Clearly, RNC penalties are on the radars of at least some Michigan Republican legislators. One Republican opposed state Senate-passed legislation in 2022 that would have pushed the presidential primary even earlier into February because of the rules implications. 

Yet, at this point in time, how much are the feelings of that lone Republican, Senator Jim Runestad, being buttressed by representatives from the RNC? That is unclear. There is a large enough team at the RNC to be able to multitask on a variety of issues, but considering that a heated race for RNC chair is taking place in the same window in which the DNCRBC is requiring completed action on the primary move in Michigan, it could mean that resources may be diverted at the very time they are needed in Lansing. It is not that RNC backup is necessarily needed in Michigan to inform Republicans in the state legislature of the gravity of moving the presidential primary, but rather that the national party may be sidetracked at a point when that backup may matter most. 

2. Maybe Michigan cannot help Georgia
On a different note, this potential legislative roadblock in Michigan complicates to some degree the Georgia primary situation for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). FHQ recently raised the prospect of the DNC switching the Georgia (February 13) and Michigan (February 27) primaries in the proposed calendar order as a means of actually getting the presidential primary in the Peach state into the pre-window. 

However, such a switch was predicated on an unfettered Democratic majority in Lansing; a majority free to tweak legislation if necessary. Michigan Democrats in the legislature may still have that ability, but it appears that the entire Democratic apparatus in the state -- state party and legislature -- are taking the February 1 DNCRBC deadline seriously. The quicker the legislative majority in Michigan feels compelled to move on SB 13, the less likely it is that the Georgia situation can be fixed in a way that is amendable to the Republican secretary of state there. 

Again, there is likely some latitude in that DNCRBC deadline if Michigan is moving positively toward the goal of changing its primary date. But that is a tricky position for the DNC. At once they want to convey the need to lock in the primary date change in Michigan, but to also find a way to accommodate the complications that are present in Georgia. And at some point the DNC is just going to have to finalize its calendar order and be ready to face whatever state-level reactions come. Still, the party does not want to finalize a calendar rules package that will be tough or impossible to implement and creates headaches down the road.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Bill Introduced in Michigan Senate to Move Presidential Primary to February 27

A day after the 2023 legislative session opened in Michigan, legislation has been introduced in the state Senate to move the presidential primary from the second Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in February. 

Senator Jeremy Moss (D-7th, Southfield) filed SB 13, a short bill with the simple objective to move the Michigan presidential primary into compliance with the newly adopted DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee calendar proposal for the 2024 cycle. Importantly, the rules were suspended and the bill was moved directly to the Committee on the Whole for consideration. This, no doubt, was a move to expedite the bill's passage. Part of Michigan being conditionally granted a waiver to hold a nominating contest in the DNC pre-window period was to have completed all action on a primary move by February 1. 

While that is an official deadline as part of the waiver for the Michigan primary, Democrats in the state are unlikely to be penalized if the legislature is making progress on the bill after the end of January. Michigan Democrats will not lose their pre-window spot if provable, positive steps are being made (and it is just a matter of when not if the bill will ultimately become law. 

Nevertheless, a bill to move the presidential primary in the Great Lakes state is now active and should move relatively quickly through the Democratic-controlled legislature. 

Identical Third Bill Would Reestablish Missouri's Presidential Primary

There may or may not be enough support across both the Missouri state House and Senate to pass legislation to bring back the presidential primary in the Show-Me state, but there are now three separate and identical bills that seek to do that. 

Rep. Eric Woods (D-18th, Kansas City) this week introduced HB 738 which contains the same, exact language as two bills pre-filed last month by Republicans Rep. Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway (R-115th, Jefferson) and Rep. Rudy Veit (R-59th, Cole). None of the three bills has co-sponsors at this time. 

The Missouri presidential primary was stricken from the state code as part of an election omnibus bill that was signed into law in 2022. More on the history of that move here.

This legislation has been added to the updated 2024 presidential primary calendar

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Progress Report: New Hampshire's calendar status, post-deadline day

Part of the calendar package that the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adopted early last month was a deadline for states that were at that time granted conditional waivers to be able to schedule primaries and caucuses in the pre-window period. That deadline -- January 5, 2023 -- was put in place as an early marker by which those states were to have shown state-specific progress toward the goal of moving their contests into the prescribed positions. 

Three of the five states -- South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan -- are in good shape after January 5 based on a variety of factors. South Carolina's state parties, and not the state government, select the date of the presidential primary, Nevada is on the prescribed date already, and the 2022 midterms left Democrats in unified control of state government in Michigan. That puts each on a glide path to compliance with the likely DNC rules for the 2024 presidential nomination cycle.

But the remaining two states have run into problems and failed to meet the January 5 deadline. The easy explanation is that both New Hampshire and Georgia have a Republicans problem. Republicans control state government in New Hampshire and the secretary of state's office in Georgia. 

However, both states were required to do different things by the DNCRBC before January 5 in order to retain their waivers. 

Georgia Democrats had to win over Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and convince him to move the presidential primary to February 13. They have failed to do so to this point. Yet, the secretary's office has provided the criteria by which the primary could occur earlier: 1) the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries must occur concurrently (as has been the custom in the Peach state and most states with state-run primaries, for that matter) and 2) the primary cannot be so early that it leads to delegate penalties from one or both national parties. February 13 does not work under those criteria, but a date later in the pre-window period may.

New Hampshire Democrats, on the other hand, had a much higher bar to clear before January 5. Although the secretary of state selects the date on which the presidential primary in the Granite state falls -- just as in Georgia -- the DNCRBC instead targeted the legislative process. The panel expected progress toward changing state law to specify the February 6, 2024 date on which the DNC has proposed to schedule the New Hampshire primary and to expand voting to include no-excuse absentee balloting in the state. Democrats in New Hampshire would have likely balked at those demands anyway, but had no real recourse with Republicans uninterested in making those changes in unified control of state government. 

But FHQ will not rehash all of that again. One can always go read about the New Hampshire defense of the first-in-the-nation law, the lose-lose situation in which the Democratic Party there finds itself for the 2024 cycle and what happened in 1984 when New Hampshire was in a similar predicament (and what that might mean for 2024).

Instead, let's examine where this process has been and where it is likely to go given that it looks like both the DNCRBC and New Hampshire Democrats may be digging in for an extended standoff.

Where this has been
I. In the lead up to the December 2 DNCRBC meeting it looked as if the panel might take the path of least resistance toward change: knock Iowa from its perch atop the calendar, move every other early state up and add an Iowa replacement to the mix. That set expectations high that New Hampshire Democrats would be able to easily protect their traditional first primary position. When the Biden calendar proposal was revealed and adopted by the DNCRBC, those high expectations were dashed and New Hampshire Democrats reacted swiftly and defiantly

II. But it was not just that South Carolina supplanted New Hampshire in the president's plan that rankled Democrats in the Granite state. Sure, that stuck in their craws, but the aforementioned hoops through which the DNCRBC required the New Hampshire Democratic Party to jump added insult to injury. The herculean tasks made it appear as if the DNCRBC had only provided the New Hampshire primary a waiver-in-name-only; a hollow protection of the state's first-in-the-nation status in the Democratic process given impossibly high requirements. Again, the reaction was (pre-Christmas) defiance.

III. Then came January 5. And the reaction was again defiance but this time mixed with a request that the DNCRBC not punish New Hampshire Democrats for being unable to meet "unrealistic and unattainable" goals. That was further buttressed by the New Hampshire Republicans in power from the governor to the legislative leaders and the secretary of state on down signaling that no changes were imminent. 

Where it is going
IV. However, since there are clear roadblocks to compliance in the cases of both New Hampshire and Georgia, an extension was granted. That grace period will provide both sides -- the DNCRBC and, in this case, New Hampshire Democrats -- some time to consider alternatives. 

V. Extension or not, all states conditionally granted waivers to hold nominating contests in the pre-window have until February 1 -- the night before the February 2-4 Democratic Winter meeting kicks off -- to complete all action on making the changes required by the DNRBC. That early February meeting is when the DNC is set to vote on the calendar proposal adopted by the DNCRBC in December. 

VI. Following the final DNC adoption of the calendar rules for 2024 state parties will spend the spring finalizing draft delegate selection plans, including when the state's nominating contest is scheduled to occur. Those plans must face a public comment period of at least one month before being submitted for DNCRBC review before the early stages of May 2023. 

VII. Thereafter, any points of contention -- any noncompliance issues in state delegate selection plans -- will be hammered out between the state parties in question and the DNCRBC before final approval is granted (or not) during the summer and into the fall. Noncompliance at that stage will trigger penalties. The automatic penalty for a timing violation is a 50 percent reduction in a state's delegation. But if the New Hampshire secretary of state schedules the presidential primary for any date other than the one prescribed by DNC rules and Granite state Democrats go along with it (defying DNC rules), then the party is likely to draw the Florida/Michigan treatment from the DNCRBC. It is also at the discretion of the DNCRBC to go beyond the 50 percent penalty and in the case of Florida and Michigan, both of which planned to and held noncompliant primaries in 2008, that penalty was a raised to 100 percent. [Of course, there are caveats to that penalty.]

FHQ will stop there. To go further is to speculate more than I am willing given the intended scope here.

The point is less to lay out the above timeline than it is to show that New Hampshire Democrats have already had around three opportunities to respond to the DNCRBC concerning the proposed changes to the calendar. They will have roughly four more chances to do so in the coming year both before the national party rules are finalized and after. 

How they respond (or continue to respond) matters.

There is a reason FHQ said this when the president's calendar plan was released on the eve of the December DNCRBC meeting:
"If I'm folks in NH, I'm real quiet right now other than to say, "There is a state law. We will defer to the secretary of state on the matter as the law requires." That's it. Quietly and happily go along for the ride and say you did everything you could to lobby for a change."
That drew the ire of some in New Hampshire at the time, but it reflects the DNC rules and the nature of how they have been interpreted over time. Those rules, specifically Rule 21, require state parties to have "acted in good faith" and to have taken "all provable positive steps" towards making any changes on the state level to bring the state's delegate selection plan into compliance with DNC rules. 

DNCRBC co-Chair Jim Roosevelt echoed the language in that rule when he recently discussed the New Hampshire and Georgia situations with NPR. 
"Hopefully there will be flexibility," said Jim Roosevelt, co-chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, of his colleagues. The committee is likely to meet and vote on granting the extensions in the coming weeks before a planned DNC-wide vote to approve or deny the new calendar at a meeting in Philadelphia in early February. 
Roosevelt said the DNC has worked with other states in the past as long as they can show they are making their "best effort" and taking "provable, positive steps."
Notice that. Roosevelt mentions both DNCRBC-side flexibility on providing more time but also in working with state parties that will meet them in the middle somewhere. 

New Hampshire Democrats have certainly leaned in on the law the state has on the books to protect its first-in-the-nation status in the time since the calendar proposal was unveiled. But whether they have to this point made their "best efforts" at change or taken "provable, positive steps" toward compliance is debatable (if not in the eye of the beholder). 

The DNC will likely adopt some calendar plan next month in Philadelphia. There may even be some changes to accommodate New Hampshire and/or Georgia. But if the New Hampshire primary remains tethered to the Nevada primary on February 6 in those adopted rules, then how New Hampshire Democrats react may go some way toward telling interested onlookers how the DNCRBC is likely to respond. 

Does the New Hampshire Democratic Party delegate selection plan submitted to the DNCRBC for review go along with the proposed February 6 date or leave that part open pending the decision of Secretary of State Scanlan (R)? 

Do Democrats in the New Hampshire state legislature make any moves to change the primary date (futile though those efforts may ultimately be)? Do they make some attempt to consolidate the Democratic primary with town meetings in March (as the primary was initially intended to be prior to 1975)? 

Does the New Hampshire Democratic Party offer to hold a party-run contest? 

Those are all signals of, if not outright, good faith moves and/or provable, positive steps. And those steps may in some cases still trigger a 50 percent delegate reduction, but it may also help the party avoid making the New Hampshire primary into a "state-sponsored public opinion poll" in the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination process. 

Continued defiance in the eyes of the DNCRBC will not help avoid that fate. 

But ultimately New Hampshire Democrats may bank on the fact that the DNC will eventually cave and not be able to enforce any effort to keep a swing state delegation out of the convention. Of course, a president who wanted to diversify the early calendar who becomes presumptive nominee with little or only token opposition and leads said convention may have some input on the matter. 

However, that is a ways down the road and both sides -- New Hampshire Democrats and the DNCRBC -- have some built-in off ramps (as laid out above) along the way. Will either or both take them or will the showdown continue into 2024? 

Legislation is on the way to move Pennsylvania presidential primary up

Word broke on Tuesday that legislation is forthcoming in Pennsylvania to shift the presidential primary in the Keystone state up to the third Tuesday in March for the 2024 cycle. 

State House Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181th, Philadelphia) and Rep. Jared G. Solomon (D-202nd, Philadelphia) said in a statement:
Pennsylvania has been a pivotal battleground state and will be again in 2024. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s presidential primary is the fourth Tuesday in April, long after many states have voted for a presidential nominee. This makes our commonwealth one of the last states in the nation to weigh in despite being a crucial swing state. Our voters should have more influence in selecting the most qualified presidential nominee for each party.

In the near future, we will introduce legislation to adjust our petition circulation schedule and move Pennsylvania’s next presidential primary date up by one month to the third Tuesday in March, making our next presidential primary date March 19th, 2024

This will increase Pennsylvania’s importance in future presidential primary elections, giving our residents increased national political weight in line with our state's size and importance. With an earlier primary, Pennsylvania voters will represent the 'keystone' needed for each candidate to win their party's nomination in 2024 and beyond.
A bill has yet to be filed, but this revives an effort that has been unsuccessful over the last two legislative sessions. It would push the Pennsylvania primary up to a spot on the calendar it would share with Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, making March 19 an even more delegate-rich date on the calendar. And while the move would bring the presidential primary in the commonwealth up into a potentially more competitive position in March, it would mean abandoning a slot where the Pennsylvania primary is the clear biggest prize on April 23, the fourth Tuesday in April.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Progress Report: A view of an early Georgia Democratic Presidential Primary, post-deadline day

Last week's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee-imposed deadline for states granted contingent waivers for early contests to update their progress came and went on January 5 with little new light shed on the subject. 

Yes, South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan gave favorable reports and received positive marks from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC). And all of that was expected because of either how dates are chosen (South Carolina), being on the prescribed date already (Nevada) or the midterms shifting state legislative control in the direction of Democrats (Michigan). None of that was new or unexpected. 

Neither was it unexpected that New Hampshire, Iowa and Georgia may present some problems for the recently adopted calendar proposal put forth by President Biden and his team. It came as little surprise, then, that the DNCRBC co-chairs granted both New Hampshire and Georgia some extra time beyond January 5 to work toward the plan outlined in the proposed pre-window calendar in the Democratic presidential nomination process for 2024. 

And that is less a story of backlash than it is about the political realities of changing the lineup at the beginning of the calendar. Again, if it was so easy to change, then it would have changed by now

Look, the calendar proposal, as is, was unworkable from the start. New Hampshire Democrats were most assuredly going to balk at losing their position atop the primary calendar, and their defiant reaction is mostly just par for the course. Plus, given the hoops that Granite state Democrats were given to jump through to retain their waiver, the very clear signal was that 1) the DNCRBC never really thought New Hampshire Democrats were going to play along and/or 2) the panel was going to have this standoff with them anyway and boot the state from the pre-window altogether. 

[But FHQ digresses. We will return to the Granite state in a separate post.]

Georgia is much the same. As in New Hampshire, Republicans control the levers of power with respect to the selection of a date for the presidential primary. Thus far, the secretary of state's office in Georgia has resisted entreaties about shifting up the date of presidential primary in the Peach state:
"We’ve been clear: This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds."
-- Jordan Fuchs, Georgia Deputy Secretary of State
And representatives in Secretary Raffensperger's (R) office have not been doing this just recently. Democrats, in the state of Georgia and nationally, have been repeatedly rebuffed throughout the course of Georgia Democrats' efforts to appeal to the DNCRBC to add the Peach state to the pre-window lineup. 
"Sterling said the agency 'has been telling Democrats for over a year that we will do nothing that would require having two dates' for the parties’ primaries. He said that because of the national GOP’s calendar, holding Georgia’s Republican primary before March 1 'would cut their delegate count in half.'”
-- Gabriel Sterling, COO  Georgia Secretary of State
[Actually, a primary before March 1 would cost Georgia Republicans around 85 percent of their delegates.]

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) also opposes the move. A spokesman said, "the governor has no role in this process and does not support the idea." Well, under Georgia law, the governor issues a proclamation about the presidential primary, but that follows the secretary of state scheduling the contest. Informally, the governor could lobby on behalf of such a move. ...if he was so inclined. 

And in this case, Kemp is not. 

That is a fair amount of resistance to the calendar proposal adopted by the DNCRBC in December to shift the Georgia primary to February 13. But that just makes February 13 unworkable.  

In looking at the above comments from folks in the Georgia secretary of state's office, there is a path for Georgia to be added to the pre-window that satisfies the two main criteria: 1) the state holds just one primary for both parties and 2) neither party loses delegates (for going too early). Just because February 13 is unworkable for Georgia does not mean that the DNCRBC does not have a set of workable component parts, New Hampshire aside, to assemble an alternate pre-window calendar. 

Nevada is likely locked into the February 6 position called for in state law. But everything else is maneuverable. 

If the space between South Carolina and Nevada(/New Hampshire) is deemed to be too small and the three state cluster in the calendar's first four days too heavy a lift in the eyes of the DNCRBC, then South Carolina could be shifted up slightly (if the panel and the president remain wedded to the idea of the Palmetto state primary leading off the proceedings).

Michigan is also maneuverable. Yes, Democrats in power in the state recently submitted their letters to the DNCRBC pledging to make the necessary changes to state law to add the Great Lakes state to the early window. But those Democrats are also in "you say jump and we'll ask how high" mode. In other words, they are happy to be a part of the conversation and could just as easily shift up to an earlier date if necessary to better space out currently listed contests across February 2024.

There is no reason the DNCRBC cannot work with the component parts already described in the proposal. To that end, just swap Georgia and Michigan in the order. Move Michigan up a week or two and slot Georgia into a spot on Saturday, March 2. Democrats in Michigan can make that sort of change just as easily as they can moving to February 27, and Georgia can be the lead-in contest to Super Tuesday on March 2 without costing Peach state taxpayers any additional money for a second presidential primary election or the Georgia Republican Party any delegates to the national convention. 

The beginnings of the Democratic and Republican calendars are unaligned in the rules and a contest can slip into a slot ahead of the first Tuesday in March (Democratic) but after March 1 (Republican) in 2024. Again, February 13 is unworkable for a Georgia Democratic presidential primary, but there are tweaks the DNCRBC can make to create a doable pre-window slate of contests that also satisfies the basic premise of the Biden proposal.

They will still have the New Hampshire problem, but the DNCRBC was always going to have to have that fight if they and the president are serious about dislodging the Granite state from the first primary position in the Democratic order. But as I say, that is a story for a separate post. 

Everything else? That is fixable. 

A Super Tuesday Presidential Primary in Oregon?

If at first you don't succeed...

What did not work in 2019 and a revamped version of which also failed in 2021 will be back up for consideration in Salem in 2023. At stake is an earlier Oregon presidential primary. Senator Suzanne Weber (R-16th, Tillamook) has filed SB 499 to move the consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- from May all the way up to the first Tuesday in March, Super Tuesday, in presidential election years. 

Only once in the post-reform era has the Beaver state shifted away from its mid-May primary date. For 1996, the Oregon legislature established a late March presidential primary distinct from the third Tuesday in May primaries for state and local offices. More recent efforts, including SB 499, have all attempted to avoid legislation that would have the state incur the costs of a new and entirely separate election to accommodate the timing of the presidential nomination process while leaving everything else in May. 

The question is, is the 2024 cycle any different? 

When the Oregon legislature officially convenes next week, the Senate will begin considering a move of the primaries anew. Where moving consolidated primaries meet snags with legislators is when those primaries -- typically their own -- conflict state legislative sessions. Asking for campaign contributions during a legislative session is something that is frowned upon in those states across the country that do not have full-time legislatures. This move would bring the Oregon primaries closer to but not necessarily overlap with the short session that Oregon gavels in every even-numbered year. However, it would also make the general election campaign for those legislators (and everyone else being nominated at the time) longer and more expensive. 

That cost may not affect the state's budgetary bottom line, but it carries external costs to other actors involved at which decision makers may balk.

But the shift to March would bring Oregon in line with all of its bordering neighbors, all of whom have March or earlier contests

A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.