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Dems to Shake Up Start of Pres. Primary02/04 09:09

   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.

   PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- 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 will look very different from 
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.

   "This isn't just about us," Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina 
Democratic Party, told a gathering of the DNC Southern caucus earlier this 
week. "This is a regional thing, and it's making us all look good."

   States voting early in the primary 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.

   The revamped Democratic calendar could be largely meaningless for 2024 since 
Biden is expected to seek reelection with no major primary challenge -- and the 
DNC has already pledged to revisit the voting calendar before the 2028 
presidential election.

   Still, this year's changes could establish precedent, just as a new lineup 
that moved Nevada and South Carolina into early voting states did when the DNC 
approved a new primary lineup before the 2008 presidential election.

   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.

   A DNC rules committee first approved the Biden-endorsed new lineup during 
its meeting in December, setting up this weekend's vote. Sixteen states and 
Puerto Rico made presentations before the rules committee last summer on why 
they should be allowed to go first -- or at least join the new top five.

   The proposed changes haven't come without divisions.

   New Hampshire state law mandates that it hold the nation's first 
presidential primary, which Iowa had circumvented since 1972 by holding a 
caucus. New Hampshire Democrats have joined with top state Republicans in 
vowing to go forward with the nation's first presidential primary next year 
regardless of the DNC calendar.

   New Democratic rules include penalties for states that attempt to jump ahead 
of others, including losing delegates to the national convention.

   Top New Hampshire Democrats have warned that another Democrat could run in 
an unsanctioned state primary and, if Biden skips it in accordance with party 
rules, could win and embarrass the president -- prolonging a primary process 
that wasn't supposed to be competitive.

   That hasn't deterred Biden, who wrote to the DNC rules committee in December 
that, "for decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the 
Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process."

   "We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their 
importance in our nominating calendar," Biden said. "It is time to stop taking 
these voters for granted."

 
 
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