Twenty state Democratic parties are moving forward with efforts to be the first to vote in the 2024 presidential Democratic primaries — a potential change that will attract more attention if President Biden decides not to run for reelection.
All four of the states that have kicked off the nominating process since 2008, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, confirmed to CBS News that they are submitting applications to remain in the early window.
Iowa is fighting to keep its first-in-the-nation status, following the chaotic caucuses in 2020, when it took days to release results due to an issue with reporting software. Some Democrats have said that Iowa’s lack of diversity and competitiveness during recent general elections should also cost the state its spot.
Fourteen other states, Puerto Rico and Democrats Abroad are also vying for the early window. They indicated in early May that they wanted to be among the first nominating contests. Applications are due by the end of the day on Friday.
The states that have confirmed they’re turning in their applications include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.
The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) approved criteria in April for selecting up to five states to be in the early window. The committee’s three main criteria for selecting the states will be diversity, competitiveness and feasibility. At least one state is to be selected from the East, Midwest, South and West regions.
Multiple sources told CBS News that Michigan and Minnesota are both considered strong candidates and at least one of them could get into the early window. If one of those states were to move into the early window, it’s unclear what impact that would have on Iowa, another Midwestern state, which has held the first nominating contest for decades.
Michigan would need approval from its legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans, to move the primary date. A source familiar told CBS News that Michigan Democrats are working with a lobbying firm to help with their presentation and the GOP issue.
For Minnesota to move its primary date, the state’s Democratic and Republican party chairs would have to reach an agreement. The fact that the state does not have to rely on a GOP state legislature to change their primary date is a selling point for its pitch to the DNC.
Minnesota’s Democratic Party has been in ongoing talks with its GOP counterparts. A source familiar with the party’s bid says Republicans recognize “the significant benefits that would come with being an early primary state.”
David Hann, the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, told CBS News that he spoke with Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin about the Democrats’ efforts to move up into the early window. But he said that he hasn’t been officially asked about moving the date and would want to know what the RNC rules would allow.
“We have not given any opinion about it,” Hann said. “I’d want to talk to the Republican National Committee to find out exactly what rules may exist about our ability to change the primary date.”
According to the RNC’s rules, states that hold elections prior to March 1 “violate the calendar” and will lose delegates. There are avenues for them to apply for a waiver and be exempt from the rules.
While the Democrats are weighing significant changes to their early primary calendar, the Republican calendar will remain the same as it was in 2020, meaning Iowa Republicans will hold the first contest for the GOP.
Should the order of states changes, the effects may not be fully evident in 2024, when the president is expected to run for reelection. In that case, a few states could cancel their primaries if not enough challengers qualify for the ballot. Four states canceled their primaries in 2012, when President Obama was running for his second term.
The RBC will hear presentations on June 22 and 23 before making a decision on which states will enter the early window during its meetings on Aug. 5 and 6.
It’s possible that not all parties that apply to get into the early window will have a chance to make their case in a presentation, according to an email obtained by CBS News that was sent to state parties in late May.
“RBC Co-Chairs Jim Roosevelt and Minyon Moore will select a subset of states to make presentations to the RBC during the June 22-24 meeting in Washington, DC,” the email said. “The Co-Chairs will make their determination after applications are submitted by a date to be announced prior to the deadline. Parties not selected to present may contact Party Affairs to arrange a meeting with the Co-Chairs to discuss the determination.”
Applicants were asked to address questions about diversity, competitiveness and feasibility, according to a document obtained by CBS News. The resolution approved in April defined diversity as racial, ethnic, geographic and economic diversity, as well as union representation.
The questions around competitiveness ask states how holding an early contest there would help Democrats in a presidential general election and to highlight any gains made by Democrats in the state since 2012. The feasibility questions asked how a primary date is set, how a date could be changed and whether there have been conversations with state officials about moving the primary into the early window.
For states that hold caucuses or party-run primaries, rather than state-run primaries, there are additional questions about why the state uses that method of voting, any changes that would be made for 2024 and the number of caucus or voting locations. Throughout the discussions about the early window, several RBC members and speakers on listening sessions were critical of the caucus process.
Another factor to be considered is the cost of television advertising in a state. That could especially impact states like Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Texas, which have especially large media markets.