(The Center Square) – New Hampshire Democrats say they can't meet a key Democratic National Committee requirement to remain an early presidential primary state, and are urging the party not to sanction them.
In a letter to DNC rule-making officials, a group of Democratic lawmakers pointed out that with Republicans in control of the state legislature and governor's office, they "likely do not have the power" to update the state's voting access laws to maintain its first-in-the-nation nominating status.
"Punishing New Hampshire Democrats, who have no ability to address voting laws in the face of a Republican trifecta in the state, could have dire consequences for Democrats up and down the ticket in 2024," the lawmakers, led by Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, wrote to DNC officials.
Last month, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to dramatically upend the 2024 presidential nominating schedule by making South Carolina the first state to hold a primary, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire, and later Georgia and Michigan, before the multi-state Super Tuesday contests.
The panel also bumped Iowa, which holds its presidential caucuses ahead of New Hampshire's primary, further down in the primary calendar.
The changes, which must still be approved by the full DNC later this year, were requested by Democratic President Joe Biden who asked DNC leaders last week to approve the early state lineup. South Carolina was a key battleground state in Biden's win in the 2020 presidential elections.
New Hampshire leaders have pointed out that a state law enshrines its early nominating status, and are vowing to continue to hold the first presidential primary in 2024, even amid the threat of sanctions from the national party.
DNC officials have outlined certain election laws that would need to change in New Hampshire to remain an early primary state, including the expansion of absentee or mail voting.
But Democrats pointed out in the letter that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who will be sworn into office for a fourth term on Thursday, has rejected similar proposals in the past. Sununu vetoed a proposal to expand voting access several years ago.
"Given Governor Sununu’s 2019 veto, it is highly unlikely that he and the Republicans will change course now because of demands from the DNC," Soucy wrote. "We believe that the strong Democratic support for no-fault absentee voting shows New Hampshire Democrats’ commitment to the goals laid out by the DNC."
Members of the state's all Democratic congressional delegation said they support the letter, saying the DNC’s demand that New Hampshire change its voting laws to hold an early primary is "both unrealistic and unfairly punitive."
“We urge the DNC to understand the position that we are in and the negative consequences that their requirements will have on Democrats up and down the ticket in 2024," they said in a statement.
To be sure, both New Hampshire and Iowa have state laws on the books enshrining their early nominating statuses.
For more than a century, New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary has given the 11th-smallest state by population an outsized influence on presidential politics.
But some Democrats argue the predominantly white electorates in New Hampshire and Iowa aren't representative of Democratic voters or the nation as a whole.
Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee voted to reaffirm the party's early state lineup of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.