Jan 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Why Biden won't be on the New Hampshire primary ballot

President Biden walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Jan. 12 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire Tuesday will be missing a key name on the ballot: President Biden.

Why it matters: The Democratic National Committee's convoluted clash with New Hampshire legislators has left the incumbent president in a position to clinch the state's nomination through only write-in votes.

  • "That does not mean you can't vote for him," Kathy Sullivan, former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair, told Axios.
  • Sullivan has helped kickstart a Biden super PAC aimed at getting those write-in votes in New Hampshire for Biden, the Democratic frontrunner.
  • "I and many other Democrats are just trying to get the message out that people in New Hampshire need to go and vote on January 23 and write in Joe Biden's name on the ballot," she added.

How did we get here?

  • Democrats in early 2023 approved the president's proposed primary calendar, which was designed to allow states with racially diverse populations — like South Carolina — a bigger say in these early races.
  • Biden, who placed fifth in New Hampshire in 2020, had been urging the DNC to change its primary calendar so that South Carolina held the leadoff race.
  • South Carolina will now hold its Democratic primary on Feb. 3.

New Hampshire legislators refused to surrender their coveted first-in-the-nation presidential primary status and abide by the new DNC primary calendar.

  • State law also requires it to hold the country's first presidential primary, which has been the case for more than 100 years.
  • Due to New Hampshire's primary violating DNC rules, Biden chose to not have his name on the ballot in the Granite State.

How does the move affect Biden?

  • The DNC also pushed back on New Hampshire's refusal to let go of the first primary spot, and it will not be awarding any delegates stemming from the Jan. 23 results.
  • This creates a purely symbolic victor from the primary.

Of note: Biden is not the first write-in candidate in the Granite State.

  • In 1968, then-President Lyndon Johnson won New Hampshire as a write-in candidate, though he withdrew from the race days later.

Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee had urged New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Raymond Buckley "to educate the public that January 23rd is a non-binding presidential preference event and is meaningless," per a letter from earlier this month.

  • In response, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella issued a cease-and-desist.
  • In a letter to the DNC, Assistant Attorney General Brendan O'Donnell said that "falsely telling New Hampshire voters that a New Hampshire election is 'meaningless' violates New Hampshire voter suppression laws."

But, will some Democrats be on the ballot?

  • Other Democratic contenders, including self-help author Marianne Williamson and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), have filed the paperwork to appear on the ballot.
  • In total, 21 Democrats, sans Biden, will appear on the ballot Tuesday, according to AP.

Go deeper: New Hampshire defies DNC plan, schedules primary on Jan. 23

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