Politico

DNC sets off free-for-all to remake presidential calendar


The Democratic National Committee is officially reopening its presidential nominating process, upending the current calendar led by Iowa and New Hampshire and requiring them — and any other interested states — to apply for early-state status in 2024.

Members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted on Wednesday to set the application process for how states will be considered as candidates to lead off the presidential primaries, potentially expanding the roster from four to five states. The influential perch guarantees candidates, attention and money flow into those states during national campaigns — not to mention giving voters there an outsize say in picking presidents.

Iowa and New Hampshire have dominated the process since the dawn of the modern presidential nominating process, with other early states added and adjusted along the way. But Iowa’s disastrous 2020 Democratic caucuses, which featured delayed results due to technical difficulties, fueled complaints that the first-in-the-nation state not only failed to implement its caucus properly, but no longer represented the party’s diversity.

The DNC will require states looking to move up in the calendar to submit a letter of intent by May 6, then a formal application due on June 3. They will also make a presentation to the committee in late June. Then, the rules committee will have six weeks to make its recommendation on the new early-state lineup, which will likely be announced at their meeting in early July. Later this summer, the rules committee’s roster of states will go to the full DNC membership for a vote to lock in the calendar for the 2024 presidential cycle.

The vote comes after months of airing of grievances, with DNC members griping over the nominating process, blasting Iowa for its lack of diversity and rehashing frustrations about the caucuses.

To address these complaints, the resolution includes a framework that the committee will use as it considers new states, taking into account factors like racial, ethnic and regional diversity, including a mix of urban and rural voters; access to the ballot, like using primaries — state-run processes with robust absentee and early voting built into the law in most states — instead of caucuses; and states’ general election competitiveness.

Another key factor will be the feasibility of moving a state’s primary date, which is often dictated by which party controls the state legislature and governorship. Democrats currently have unified control of 14 state governments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A handful of states have already indicated they plan to apply. New Jersey Democrats sent a letter to DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison in mid-March arguing that they should go first, emphasizing the state’s racial and geographic diversity. Michigan, too, has indicated it’s interested. And Nevada, which currently goes third in nominating order, has also lobbied to jump to the front of the line.

On Wednesday night, there was a debate among members about whether to explicitly say caucus-style states, like Iowa, need not apply for early-state status, given that many members have already expressed concern about the format. But the DNC members ultimately opted against making that specification.

Scott Brennan, a rules committee member from Iowa, said he supported leaving the language general, allowing everyone to apply. Then, he said, “Let the chips fall where they may.”

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