New Hampshire voter at center of a few voting booths

Why Joe Biden Won’t Be on the Primary Ballot in New Hampshire

Idea for new state motto: "Be first or die"

On Wednesday, New Hampshire’s highest election officials announced that they would be holding onto their traditional position as the first state to hold an election in the upcoming primary cycle, no matter the consequences.

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This announcement actively goes against a decision made earlier this year by the Democratic National Committee and President Joe Biden, declaring the first Democratic primary should be held in South Carolina. And because the president is obligated to act in accordance with the DNC’s delegate selection rules, that means Biden will not appear on the ballot for the New Hampshire Democratic primary. 

“We did not take the first-in-the-nation status from anyone, and we will vigorously defend it,” New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan said in a press conference speech that seemed to me to be a lot about honor and tradition and not a lot about what is best for the American people.

“In today’s society, it seems that we’re quick to eliminate traditions and ignore them,” he said. “But I’d like to think that 100 years from now, the people of this country will really be glad that we kept this one.” 

In the 2020 election, South Carolina Democrats came out in full force for Biden in the primary, making it easy to see why he would have pushed for it to be first in the nation. But the DNC’s motivation for moving the first primary is supposedly diversity. New Hampshire is one of the least-populated states, with about 1.4 million people, and 91% of them are white. That’s really not reflective of the United States as a whole, and so much of what happens across an entire primary is affected by what happens at the start. 

South Carolina, on the other hand, is home to about 5.4 million people, with about two-thirds white and one-quarter Black residents. The Democratic voters in South Carolina are largely Black, which Biden and the DNC see as an important reason why the state should have a turn as “first in the nation” in an effort to diversify and combat the fact that the nation’s early primary populations don’t reflect the larger country. 

I’ve long been incredulous that states with such monocultural, small populations, like New Hampshire and Iowa, should wield so much power over the shape of our presidential elections. It reminds me of the fact that every state gets the same two votes in the Senate, even though Wyoming has a population of about half a million and California has a population of almost 39 million.  

New Hampshire’s state law says they must hold their primary at least one week before any other state. But why? No one has really pointed to any reason besides tradition. And attention. Could the state alter the law following the DNC’s and the president’s recommendations? Yes, but they chose not to, and now the only way New Hampshire democrats can vote for Biden during the primary is via write-in.

(featured image: Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.