WASHINGTON -- New Hampshire and Georgia will have a bit longer to implement key changes to when and how they hold Democratic presidential primaries, under an extension approved by a Democratic National Committee panel.
Election officials will have until June 3 to move New Hampshire's 2024 Democratic presidential primary to Feb. 13 and Georgia's to Feb. 20, if they want to hold early primaries next year.
New Hampshire must also expand access to early voting if it wants to remain one of the first states in the country that votes on Democratic presidential candidates.
The Democratic National Committee panel in December shook up the longstanding caucus and primary calendar and decided voters in South Carolina would go first in picking Democratic presidential nominees, followed by Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan.
The proposal would move the earliest date away from the longtime first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, though New Hampshire would maintain an early role and vote just a week after South Carolina.
GOP state leaders opposed
The extension the Rules & Bylaws Committee approved Wednesday following a 25-0 vote during a virtual meeting gives New Hampshire and Georgia several months to make their primary election changes beyond an original Jan. 5 deadline, though the additional time is unlikely to sway GOP state leaders, who remain opposed to the changes.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has the authority to set the calendar, has yet to endorse the shift. And the Democrats' plan was dealt a setback when Gov. Brian Kemp's administration announced in early January he won't back the switch.
That factor has elicited concerns from New Hampshire Democrats, who are imploring the committee to work with them, given the GOP governor and Republican-controlled state legislature have rebuffed cooperating with Democrats to implement changes to state law.
"I want to be very clear about one thing -- we share the president's and the RBCs commitment to elevating the voices of Black, Latino and Hispanic voters," said panel member Joanne Dowdell of New Hampshire. "And we believe it's possible to lift up diverse voices and keep New Hampshire at the start of the process. These two things need not be mutually exclusive."
"We agree that our goal with the early primary window shouldn't just be to tell the story of one state or a single group of voters, it should be to tell the broader story of our party -- both our values and our ability to appeal to voters all across the country," Dowdell added.
The new requirements for New Hampshire to remain an early primary state, she said, put the state's Democrats in a "no-win position."
If New Hampshire and Georgia don't make the adjustments, they would need to hold their Democratic presidential primaries in the regular window, which runs from the first Tuesday in March through the second Tuesday in June.
If the states opt to hold their primary elections outside that window without the waiver, they could face repercussions from the national party, including a prohibition on Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in the state and the state losing half its delegates.
The DNC Rules & Bylaws panel voted in December to change the order and the states that are granted waivers to hold primaries early in the year, moving slightly away from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina as the early states.
The new lineup for 2024 would have South Carolina vote first on Feb. 6, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 13, Georgia on Feb. 20 and Michigan on Feb. 27.
President Joe Biden, who in 2020 didn't win a primary until South Carolina, had requested the shift in the party's presidential nomination process.
The changes were approved on a mostly unanimous voice vote, though Scott Brennan of Iowa and Dowdell voted against the new primary calendar.
Election officials in several of the states and Iowa have rebuked the decision, saying they simply won't change when the state holds its primaries. Iowa and New Hampshire also have state laws requiring them to vote before other states, complicating the matter.
Rules and Bylaws Committee Co-Chairwoman Minyon Moore said during the Wednesday meeting the panel remained committed to seeing Biden's vision for the 2024 primary move forward.
"We want to make sure the states have as much time as they need to work through this process," Moore said.
"South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan have all completed their waiver requirements to our satisfaction," she noted. "New Hampshire and Georgia remain working on their progress. Albeit it is for different reasons, but we are still committed to seeing the president's vision. and we want to make sure the states have as much time as they need to work through this process."
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