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Democratic National Committee dumps Iowa from lead-off spot in 2024

The party will kick off its 2024 presidential primaries in South Carolina under a plan first pitched by President Joe Biden.

(CN) --- The Democratic National Committee Saturday voted to rejuggle the order of primary voting beginning with the 2024 presidential primary, removing Iowa from its nearly half-century first-in-the-nation position in the Democratic primary process.

The national party meeting in Philadelphia approved the new calendar for the Democratic nominating process, which would kick off in South Carolina followed by Nevada and New Hampshire, then Georgia and Michigan. Both Iowa and New Hampshire objected to the change.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said in a statement released Saturday that the party’s plan creates uncertainty because some of the states that would vote early may be unwilling or unable to meet the conditions laid out by the party. “This uncertainty means that the matter is far from settled, and Iowa Democrats will continue to be part of the ongoing conversations about the calendar,” she said.

Iowa Democrats have made clear they are not going to willingly forfeit the state’s cherished spot at No. 1. In fact, Iowa law requires both parties to hold caucuses before any other state, and Iowa Republican Party has vowed to hold its 2024 presidential primary first. Moreover, the Republican-controlled legislature is unlikely to change the law for either party.

“As a farmer who lives near Wheatland, Iowa, a town of around 800 people, it is vital that small rural states like Iowa have a voice in our Presidential nominating process,” Hart said. “Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party. I am especially troubled by the lack of any representation of states in the Central or Mountain time zones.”

But national party leaders dismiss criticisms from small states that lack diversity.

"This calendar reflects the best of who we are as a nation," Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison told party members before the vote Saturday.

The move to reorder the presidential primary calendar was initiated after President Joe Biden last year urged the party to scrap Iowa’s first-in-the-nation position in favor of South Carolina.

In his Dec. 1, 2022, letter to the DNC’s rules committee, Biden emphasized the party’s presidential primary process should be open to more minority groups.

“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden said in the letter. “As I said in February 2020, you cannot be the Democratic nominee and win a general election unless you have overwhelming support from voters of color – and that includes Black, Brown and Asian American & Pacific Islander voters. You should not be the Democratic nominee and win a general election unless you show working class Americans that you will fight for them and their families.”

Iowa’s favored place on the primary calendar has long been criticized because the state’s overwhelmingly white and large rural population does not fairly reflect the nation’s electorate.

The party caucus process has also come under increasing fire because, unlike a primary election run by the state, where all eligible voters are able to cast ballots throughout an early voting period or on Election Day, party caucuses are one-time precinct meetings run by volunteers where electors must openly declare their favored candidate. Iowa has also been criticized for its convoluted system of declaring winners using a mind-numbing delegate-equivalent calculation.

Iowa’s Democratic caucuses got a black eye in 2020 when the results of that year’s precinct caucuses were delayed for weeks due in part to technical glitches, and in the meantime the primary campaigns had moved on to other states. Moreover, the Democratic Party nationally may have soured on Iowa after the state experienced a Republican red wave when the governor, both houses of the legislature, all four members of Congress and all but one statewide office went to the GOP in the 2022 midterm election.

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