Democrats are poised to reorder their presidential primary schedule beginning next year, replacing Iowa with South Carolina in the leadoff spot as part of a major overhaul meant to empower Black and other minority voters critical to the party’s base of support.
The Democratic National Committee has worked for months to revamp the start of its voting calendar, and the full membership is set to vote on the plan on Saturday.
Although changes are still possible throughout the summer and beyond, the formal endorsement during the party’s meeting in Philadelphia is acknowledgement that the start of 2024′s primary calendar will look very different than the one in 2020.
The proposal has been championed by President Joe Biden and would have South Carolina hold its primary on Feb. 3. That would be followed three days later by New Hampshire and Nevada, the latter of which is swapping the caucus it used to hold in favor of a primary. Georgia would vote fourth on Feb. 13, followed by Michigan on Feb. 27, with much of the rest of the nation set to vote on Super Tuesday in early March.
States voting early in the primary schedule have major influence since White House hopefuls struggling to raise money or gain political traction often drop out before visiting areas outside the first five. The move marks a major shift from the current calendar, which had started with Iowa’s caucuses for the last five decades, followed by New Hampshire’s Primary and subsequent contests in Nevada and South Carolina.
DNC chair Jaime Harrison, a former Senate candidate from South Carolina, said the new schedule “allows the South to stand up, for our voices to be heard.”
Four of the five states that will start Democrats’ new primary schedule are Presidential battlegrounds, meaning the eventual party winner can lay groundwork in important General Election locales. Michigan and Georgia both voted for Donald Trump in 2016 before flipping to Biden in 2020.
The exception is South Carolina, which hasn’t backed a Democrat in a presidential race since 1976, leading some to argue that the party shouldn’t be concentrating so many early primary resources there. But the state’s population is nearly 27% Black, and African American voters represent Democrats’ most consistent base of support. The change means many will have an earlier impact on the Democratic primary than ever before.
Saturday’s vote doesn’t mean the new calendar is locked. South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan have met party requirements to join the party’s new top five. But in Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said he’d be unwilling to change his state’s Democratic presidential primary without the GOP moving its primary, which hasn’t yet happened.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.