Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Where are all the delegate selection plans?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

May 3 is fast approaching. That date may carry less significance in 2023 because the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination process looks to be only nominally competitive at this time. But that does not mean that May 3 does not matter at all. 

What is the big deal about May 3? That is the date by which state Democratic parties must have submitted draft delegate selection plans (DSPs) for 2024 to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) for review (and ultimately approval in some form). 

But May 3 is still more than a month away. 

It is. But part of the submission process is that a state party's draft DSPs must be made public for comment for a period of 30 days before they can be submitted. In other words, if one does the backward math, then 30 days before May 3 falls on April 2, a little more than a week away. And so far anyway, there has not been a rush to get these draft DSPs in front of the public. Just seven states, territories or other jurisdictions of 57 have posted them at this point asking from public comment: Arkansas, Democrats Abroad, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington, DC. [Apparently there is some urgency in O states.]

None of this is hugely important ten months out from any votes being cast, but it does offer a glimpse into a few things. State laws dictate when most primaries will be held and lock in those dates until a legislature opts to change them. Some state legislatures across the country are considering their calendar options, but for caucus states or other states with 2024 question marks, the DSPs provide some insight into the plans of state parties (where state laws are not involved).

For example, there is no official date for the North Dakota caucuses at this point. The DSP will give us the first indication of where the contest will end up on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. The same is true for, say, Iowa as well. And that is kind of the point here. Iowa Democrats do not have a protected spot atop the Democratic calendar for 2024 as the state has for the entire post-reform era. The Iowa Democratic DSP will give some of the first clues as to whether the party will relent to the DNC calendar changes this cycle or buck the national party and hold unsanctioned caucuses earlier than allowed. 

That goes for New Hampshire too. And Democrats in the Granite state posted their draft DSP earlier this week. In most cycles, New Hampshire Democrats would simply parrot the adopted DNC rules and give the date the national party had carved out for them with a simple parenthetical appended: (date subject to change). The message there from New Hampshire Democrats? "We will hold our primary on the date set aside for us unless some other state jumps in front, in which case the secretary of state will bump our primary up to protect our first-in-the-nation position."

Of course, 2024 is not going to be a normal cycle for New Hampshire Democrats. There is only a guaranteed early slot for the party if they follow the new DNC mandate and conduct a primary on February 6, 2024. And all signs have pointed toward an earlier position on the calendar. Earlier than February 6, anyway. The state party has basically signaled since December that it would follow the state law and the New Hampshire secretary of state, following said law, will likely take that primary into January 2024.

But now, New Hampshire Democrats have put a more official stamp on that sentiment. The newly released draft DSP specifies no date, a break from the past protocol. Additionally, it says what New Hampshire Democrats have been saying for months
The “first determining step” of New Hampshire's delegate selection process will occur on a date to be determined by the New Hampshire Secretary of State in accordance with NH RSA 653:9, with a “Presidential Preference Primary.” The Republican Presidential Preference Primary will be held in conjunction with the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.
The key there is the solidarity with Republicans in New Hampshire. In other words, there will be no break up, no severing of the two parties' processes. That would seemingly eliminate some alternative routes for the New Hampshire Democratic delegate selection process. It would also open the state party to penalties from the DNC. But this is just a draft after all. Consider it New Hampshire Democrats' official counter to the 2024 calendar rules the DNC adopted in February. There will be further back and forth as the New Hampshire plan goes through the review process, including representatives of the state party defending the current plan before the DNCRBC. There will be more clues to come, and probably some penalties from the look of it.

In the travel primary, maybe Ron DeSantis is just heading to Michigan next month. Or maybe the Florida governor is trekking to a state with a late February primary in 2024. Michigan Republicans (and the Republican National Committee) still have some decisions to make on that front. 

In a busy week for committee hearings on presidential primary (movement) bills, there are updates on Connecticut's possible move up to early April and Ohio's potential push back to March. 

On this date... 1980, Jimmy Carter swept the Virginia caucuses, garnering more than 80 percent of the vote on his way to a contentious Democratic (re)nomination. 2007, FHQ was born with a simple mission to gather (and share) anecdotal evidence around presidential primary movement ahead of the 2008 primaries. Things blossomed from there. 2016, there were contests in American Samoa (Republican caucuses), Arizona (primary), Idaho (Democratic caucuses) and Utah (caucuses). It was a microcosm of the processes in both parties that cycle as Sanders and Cruz won caucuses (except in American Samoa) and Clinton and Trump won the Arizona primary. There were exceptions throughout primary season, but in general the two eventual nominees performed better in primaries than in caucuses. 2017, legislation funding the Utah presidential primary was signed into law. After not funding the election in either 2012 or 2016, forcing caucuses, the legislature ponied up the funds necessary to switch back to a primary for 2020. 2020, the Wyoming Democratic Party nixed in-person voting for the upcoming caucuses due to Covid, shifting to a completely vote-by-mail structure, the window of which was also extended.

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