Friday, February 3, 2023

Democrats are trying to rearrange the dates of their primaries and caucuses to make them more representative, a 'Groundhog Day' story

Groundhog Day reminded me not only of the Bill Murray movie, but also of John Oliver on primaries and caucuses for Groundhog Day, where the comedian and his writers advocated for reforms of the Presidential primary and caucus system to make it more small-d democratic and representative. That's been happening since 2016 as Wikipedia described in its entry about the 2020 Democratic primaries and caucuses.
On August 25, 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) members passed reforms to the Democratic Party's primary process in order to increase participation[25] and ensure transparency.[26] State parties are encouraged to use a government-run primary whenever available and increase the accessibility of their primary through same-day or automatic registration and same-day party switching. Caucuses are required to have absentee voting, or to otherwise allow those who cannot participate in person to be included.[25]

Independent of the results of the primaries and caucuses, the Democratic Party, from its group of party leaders and elected officials, also appointed 771[a] unpledged delegates (superdelegates) to participate in its national convention.

In contrast to all previous election cycles since superdelegates were introduced in 1984, superdelegates will no longer have the right to cast decisive votes on the convention's first ballot for the presidential nomination. They will be allowed to cast non-decisive votes if a candidate has clinched the nomination before the first ballot, or decisive votes on subsequent ballots in a contested convention.[27][28] In that case, the number of votes required shall increase to a majority of pledged and superdelegates combined. Superdelegates are not precluded from publicly endorsing a candidate before the convention.

There were also a number of changes to the process of nomination at the state level. A decline in the number of caucuses occurred after 2016, with Democrats in Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Washington all switching from various forms of caucuses to primaries (with Hawaii, Kansas, and North Dakota switching to party-run "firehouse primaries"). This has resulted in the lowest number of caucuses in the Democratic Party's recent history, with only three states (Iowa, Nevada, and Wyoming) and four territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, and U.S. Virgin Islands) using them. In addition, six states were approved in 2019 by the DNC to use ranked-choice voting in the primaries: Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming for all voters; Iowa and Nevada for absentee voters.[29] Rather than eliminating candidates until a single winner is chosen, voters' choices would be reallocated until all remaining candidates have at least 15%, the threshold to receive delegates to the convention.[30]

Several states which did not use paper ballots widely in 2016 and 2018, adopted them for the 2020 primary and general elections,[31] to minimize potential interference in vote tallies, a concern raised by intelligence officials,[32] election officials[33] and the public.[34] The move to paper ballots enabled audits to start where they had not been possible before, and in 2020 about half the states audit samples of primary ballots to measure accuracy of the reported results.[35] Audits of caucus results depend on party rules, and the Iowa Democratic party investigated inaccuracies in precinct reports, resolved enough to be sure the delegate allocations were correct, and decided it did not have authority or time to correct all errors.
I think all these reforms helped, but 2020 revealed that still more needed to be done, as the Iowa Caucuses, already being considered as "a relic of the past," failed to produce a clear winner, as the results took almost a full month to tabulate fully and correctly, resulting in Bernie Sanders earning a plurality of votes, but Pete Buttigieg winning the most delegates. No wonder both of them claimed victory.

Worse yet, neither of them earned the Democratic nomination for President, despite them essentially tying in the New Hampshire Primary. That distinction went to Joe Biden.
Despite his un[der]performance, Biden would go on to win the nomination, becoming the first candidate to do so without winning Iowa since Bill Clinton in 1992. Additionally, with Biden defeating incumbent president Donald Trump in the general election, he became the first candidate to do so without finishing in the top 3 in Iowa since the conception of the caucuses in 1972.
On top of which, Biden showed that he didn't need New Hampshire, either.
Biden became the first Democratic candidate since Bill Clinton, and the third ever Democratic candidate,[c] to win the nomination without carrying either Iowa or New Hampshire, the first two states on the primary/caucus calendar.
On top of which, many in the Democratic Party have pointed out how unrepresentative both Iowa and New Hampshire are of the current Democratic electorate, so the party is trying to rearrange its primary calendar to reflect its voters. PBS NewsHour reported on that process in Democratic Party battles over rearranging its presidential primary calendar, uploaded, appropriately enough, on Groundhog Day.

Democrats will soon vote to rearrange their calendar for the presidential primaries in 2024 and beyond and it could have major ramifications for the party. The plan moves South Carolina to the top of the calendar and would be the first time in more than 50 years that Iowa and New Hampshire won’t be the first caucuses and primary. Lisa Desjardins reports.
Both guests agreed that the Democratic primary calendar should be rearranged to make it reflect the party's voters. They just disagree that the first state should be South Carolina, which has a history of voting more for moderates than progressives. FiveThirtyEight examined that possibility in What Would It Mean If SC Voted First In The Democratic Primary.

In Part 2 of this week’s FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, the crew looks at how the Democratic Party's effort to rearrange its presidential primary calendar is going and discusses the impact this reassortment could have on candidate selection.
I agree with the general sense of the panel; neither New Hampshire nor Georgia will comply with the proposed changes. New Hampshire has the first primary of the Presidential country by state law and I think the Granite State won't move it. Also, these are changes that benefit the Democratic Party but not the Republican Party. The calendar in place up to 2020 suits them just fine, especially since Iowa and New Hampshire do reflect their voters. They have no motivation to go along with this reform.

The one state that is going along with the Democratic Party's plan is Michigan. CBS Detroit reported Michigan moves for early slot for 2024 presidential primary two days ago.

Michigan House Democrats voted Tuesday to move the state's presidential primary to the fourth week of February and become a part of a new group of states slated to lead off the Democratic party's presidential primary starting next year.
Michigan Radio reported on the next step: Whitmer signs law to make Michigan early primary state; still not clear if effective in time for 2024.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a new law Wednesday that would bump Michigan up in the presidential primary process. Whitmer said the law would give the state’s voters a stronger voice in choosing the president, by counting their votes earlier.

But Republican leaders said their party’s rules mean that it could actually disenfranchise their primary voters. And, in either case, it’s still not clear if the law will take effect in time for the 2024 election.
The bill to move up the primary passed the state Legislature on a partisan vote, with Republicans objecting because they said it would hurt voters in their own primary. The Republican National Committee rules say most states cannot hold primary votes before March 1.
Under the state’s constitution, in order for a law to take immediate effect, it has to pass with a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. Because Republicans held out, SB 13 didn’t cross the threshold. That means it will now take effect 90 days after the end of this year’s legislative session.

To meet that deadline, Democratic leaders would have to adjourn the legislature no later than November 29. Currently, legislators are scheduled to be in session through the first few weeks of December.
So Michigan did its part, thanks to Democrats taking over control of the legislature and keeping control of the executive branch in Michigan, but it still might not take effect in time for 2024. It probably won't matter so long as Biden runs again. Just the same, stay tuned.


  1. I've never understood why Iowa and New Hampshire got such an outsize role in the nomination process every cycle, especially given Iowa's wacky caucus system. There should be a rotation or something, with different states going first each time.

    The guy in the first video does have a good point that South Carolina isn't the best choice. Georgia also has a large black population, and has been trending more Democratic in recent elections.

    1. My best answer to your implied first question is to recommend you watch the videos in FiveThirtyEight's Primary Project explains how the U.S. primary system evolved and asks if there is a better way. The short answer is "Our Presidential Primary System Is An Accident," the podcast upon which the first video is based. As for why it stayed that way so long, I appeal to the opening song from "Fiddler on the Roof" — tradition!

      You're not wrong, but putting South Carolina first is as much Biden thanking Jim Clyburn for what he did to help Biden win the South Carolina Primary in 2020 as a general effort to improve African-American voters influence in the Democratic Party primaries. Taken that way, this would work exactly as intended.

    2. Thanks to Infidel753 for linking to this entry and welcome to all of his readers coming here from Link round-up for 5 February 2023! Thank you for stopping by! Also, welcome and thanks to all my Swedish, German, Canadian, and British readers!

    3. I noticed that your comment had disappeared and wondered if you had deleted it. That made no sense, so I was relieved to find out out that Blogger or whoever else has that power marked your comment as spam after I replied to it, so I had to approve it so it could be visible again. Welcome back, even though you were never really gone!

      By the way, Blogger marked Drinks for Talk Like a Pirate Day from Tipsy Bartender as objectionable more than six years after the fact. I think they're objecting to a still image from the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, a PG-rated Disney film! I'm contemplating deleting or replacing the image before the next Talk Like a Pirate Day and re-submitting the post, but I think the basis for the objection is mistaken. There's also an ad for booze in the comments, which I will delete, as that is explicitly against Blogger's community standards.

  2. And now Blogger moved my own comment linking to Infidel753's post to spam so I had to approve it to appear. WTF?