Wednesday, January 25, 2023

DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Extends Waiver Compliance Window for Georgia and New Hampshire

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) met remotely on Wednesday, January 25 to consider extensions for Georgia and New Hampshire to comply with the national party's proposed calendar for 2024. In order to attain waivers to appear in the early calendar slots reserved for them, Democrats in Georgia and New Hampshire must either complete the requirements put before them by the DNCRBC or show provable, positive steps toward their completion by June 3, 2023.

In Georgia's case, Peach state Democrats must get some buy-in from Republicans in the state who control the scheduling of the presidential primary. There are ways of getting there with Republican help -- the Georgia secretary of state's office has set the criteria -- but it will likely take the DNCRBC bending a little on the president's vision for the calendar adopted in December.

But Georgia did not come up much in the context of the conversation among DNCRBC members. Instead, much of the period in which the floor was open for comment was dominated by the roadblocks obstructing New Hampshire's path to compliance with the waiver mandates and the reaction in the Granite state to the DNCRBC's adoption of the calendar proposal. DNCRBC member from New Hampshire, Joanne Dowdell, delivered the familiar arguments that have made the rounds over the last month from the Granite state. Her's was a simple recitation of the facts. Basically: New Hampshire Democrats are stuck; stuck between a state law that places the decision on the presidential primary's date in the hands of the secretary of state and a Republican-controlled state government with a demonstrated lack of interest in changing either the primary scheduling law or adding no-excuse absentee voting. Folks outside of the New Hampshire Democratic Party organization in the state may be more agitated and use more inflammatory arguments as this process continues, but the state party itself will likely continue along the above lines. 

What is likely to be the dug-in position of the DNCRBC, if not the DNC, with regard to the ongoing New Hampshire situation is something voiced by DC DNCRBC member, Mo Elleithee. His contention was that New Hampshire has not over the course of the last five decades been the first contest in the primary calendar order. In fact, the Granite state has been second and has had that position protected by the DNC (explicitly starting in 1984). The current plan continues to protect that (second) position and asks that New Hampshire share the space with Nevada. 

Of course, that is the crux of the problem. New Hampshire Democrats cannot comply with that. ...if they intend to operate under the state law. Unmentioned by Dowdell was any potential alternate course the state party could take to select/allocate delegates and come into compliance with a calendar plan that will not be fully adopted until June at the earliest. The DNCRBC may be trying to nudge New Hampshire Democrats in that direction, but they may not find a receptive audience. To move to an alternative is to undermine the very state law that protects the New Hampshire primary. The incentives just may not be there to move Democrats in the Granite state from that position.

But they and Georgia Democrats -- and the DNCRBC -- now have until June to figure all of that out. 

The DNCRBC unanimously adopted the Georgia and New Hampshire extensions with all 25 members present on the call in support. That means that these two waiver extensions extend past when initial draft delegate selection plans are due to the DNCRBC for review on May 3. Additionally, the new June 3 deadline for Georgia and New Hampshire to comply is around nine months later in the cycle than when the DNC has in the past finalized the calendar rules/waivers. That is not exactly time lost for the 55 other states and territories to prepare and finalize their plans (with DNCRBC approval), but it does leave some important particulars about the Georgia and New Hampshire primaries -- their dates -- unresolved. That affects state-level preparation for those contests but also impacts the candidates. 

Now that means little if President Biden opts to seek reelection and runs largely unopposed. But this process could bleed over into the Republican nomination race. It will not affect Republicans in New Hampshire. The secretary of state will schedule the presidential primary for some time seven or more days before any other contest that is not Iowa. Likely sometime in January 2024. Yet, if Georgia can be slipped into the end of the pre-window (and that takes a while to play out on the Democratic side) that could affect Republican candidates' preparation for a pre-Super Tuesday primary in the Peach state if not a soon-to-follow Super Tuesday. Granted, that is likely to factor into Republican decision makers' thinking on helping Democrats out with this plan.  

The bottom line is that the DNCRBC took a rather unprecedented step -- leaving this unresolved until the late spring of the year prior to the presidential election -- but that underscores how serious the panel is about finalizing the president's calendar plan as close to its initially presented form as possible. 

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