Letter from New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu is forthcoming
Dear Members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee,
I am writing in response to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee’s waiver resolution from December 2, 2022.
The resolution allowed New Hampshire to remain an early state so long as it met several demands as set forth by the RBC. We have explored what was feasible and what wasn’t in satisfying these demands, as described below.
Changing the Date of the New Hampshire Primary
“By January 5, 2023, the New Hampshire Democratic Party must submit to the Co-Chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee signed letters from the Governor of New Hampshire, the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire Senate, and the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives stating their intention to make any and all statutory and regulatory changes necessary so as to (i) hold the New Hampshire 2024 Democratic presidential state-run primary on February 6, 2024 regardless of when the first determining step of any other state Democratic presidential nomination process occurs.”
Per New Hampshire Statute LXIII 653:9, “The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous."
The power to set the date of the primary rests exclusively with the New Hampshire Secretary of State. The Secretary of State may change the date of the primary election at any time in the process to comply with New Hampshire law.
On December 2nd, after the DNC released its waiver requirements for states to participate in the pre-primary window, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan said: “We have the law that says, New Hampshire's primary will go at least seven days before any similar nominating event. And we will follow the law.”
The waiver also received similar responses from other Republican leaders in the state. Republican Governor Chris Sununu declared the proposal: “dead on arrival” and stated: “the Democrat[ic] party does not decide when the Democratic primary is in New Hampshire. We are going to go first.” Republican Senate Majority Leader (now Senate President) Jeb Bradley said of the DNC’s request: “Not happening. Not happening at all.” As you will see in the attached letters from Governor Sununu, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Carson, and House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, all declined the DNC’s demand to change New Hampshire law.
Put simply: the DNC’s waiver requirement is unrealistic and unattainable, as the New Hampshire Democratic Party cannot dictate to the Republican governor and state legislative leaders what to do, and because it does not have the power to change the primary date unilaterally.
What’s worse, the DNC has handed New Hampshire Republicans a salient political attack to use against both state and national Democrats- an attack that they have made clear they intend to use going into the 2024 election cycle- when the governorship, control of both houses of the state legislature, two battleground Congressional seats, and the presidency will be at stake. Already, they have begun to communicate to independents that this move shows that Republicans are the only party that cares about Granite Staters. With so many critical races on the line in 2024- including the presidential- this is an unfortunate, reckless, and self-inflicted blow.
That’s not the only concern we have about the DNC’s threat to punish New Hampshire if it complies with state law and continues to hold the first-in-the-nation primary. If the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign withhold resources from the state until after the primary, it will gravely harm our efforts to build a general election coordinated campaign to re-elect the President, elect Democrats up and down the ticket, and give Republicans the chance to out-organize our party in a state that has continued to trend blue. It also sets up a potential embarrassment for the President if he skips the state and declines to file for the primary. That will create an opening for an insurgent candidate- serious or not- who can garner media attention and capitalize on Granite Staters’ anger about being passed over by his campaign and the DNC. This would have the potential of unnecessarily making the President look bad in the eyes of New Hampshire voters and create a national narrative about divisions within the party.
Expanding Access to Early Voting
“By January 5, 2023, the New Hampshire Democratic Party must submit to the Co-Chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee signed letters from the Governor of New Hampshire, the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire Senate, and the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives stating their intention to make any and all statutory and regulatory changes necessary so as to…ii) expand access to early voting (e.g., by providing an option to vote before election day without an excuse). By February 1, 2023 the New Hampshire Democratic Party must certify to the Co-Chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee that any such necessary statutory or regulatory changes have been made.”
Since 2004, New Hampshire has consistently ranked in the top five states for voter turnout in presidential election years. Granite Staters are not only deeply involved with getting to know the candidates, but they turn out at among the highest pace in the nation. In the 2020 general election, 74.2% of New Hampshire voters turned out compared to 66% of Nevadans, 65.4% of South Carolinians, 67.9% of Georgians, and 73.1% of Michiganders.
New Hampshire allows the 40% unaffiliated (independent) voters to change their registration and participate in either party’s primary up to and on the date of the primary. This makes voting on primary day more accessible. In the 2020 FITN Primary 40,817 people registered to vote on Primary Day, which is roughly 9% of all primary voters.
Additionally, pursuant to the DNC’s waiver requirements, our Democratic state legislative leaders and federal delegation have unanimously endorsed no-fault absentee voting and will be proposing legislation in this session to “allow any voter to vote by absentee ballot at a state or local election, without a requirement that the voter be absent from the municipality or unable to vote in person for another reason.” This unanimous support demonstrates the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s commitment to the DNC’s requirements and the broader goal of expanding voting access.
However, this is another area where the DNC’s requirements serve as nothing more than a seemingly deliberate poison pill for New Hampshire’s primary. New Hampshire Republicans, who control the governorship and both houses in the state legislature, have repeatedly shown their hostility to expanding voting laws. In 2019, when Democrats held legislative majorities, Republican Governor Chris Sununu vetoed expanded early voting. And in 2021, every single Republican state senator voted against no-fault absentee legislation.
New Hampshire Democrats stand ready to expand our state’s early voting laws, but it’s clear that we can only accomplish that goal if we elect more Democrats to state-level positions. That’s why the DNC’s requirements are so counterproductive. They put state Democrats at a disadvantage in the fight to retake the state legislature where Republicans hold slim majorities and the potentially open Governor’s Office, allowing Republicans to portray our party as out of touch with the concerns of Granite Staters and giving them a potent electoral message headed into the 2024 election.
Access to Voter File
“The New Hampshire Democratic Party must offer base voter file access to all bona fide Democratic presidential campaigns during the Democratic presidential primary period for no more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) and without any other unreasonable requirements.”
If we are permitted to hold our primary in the early window, as Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, I agree that the state party will offer base voter file access to all bona fide Democratic presidential campaigns during the Democratic presidential primary period for no more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) and without any other unreasonable requirements.
Given the stakes laid out above, it is my sincere hope that the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will reconsider the requirements that they have placed on the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
For more than 100 years, and long before the DNC regulated the primary calendar, presidential candidates have started their campaigns in New Hampshire. They have seen, up close and personal, just how seriously Granite Staters take their role in the first presidential primary in the nation and have come to appreciate the unique role that only New Hampshire can play in the race for the White House.
In a day and age where campaigns are driven more and more by money and the latest digital trends, New Hampshire is a state where candidates need to speak with voters directly in our biggest cities and our smallest towns. Our state is one of the most accessible states for a candidate. Regardless of who they are, where they come from, or how much money they have, every candidate has a fair shot in the Granite State, and it has helped unknown Democratic candidates from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama hone their campaigns and propel themselves towards winning the nomination and, eventually, the White House.
Finally, New Hampshire in recent years has become a true battleground state, and as purple of a state as you will find. Races up and down the ballot here are commonly decided by less than five points. As it was for President Clinton in 1996 and President Obama in 2012, it will be critical to the President’s re-election that Democrats run a robust year-round campaign in the Granite State. I, along with many New Hampshire Democrats, fear that this decision by the DNC will put our four electoral votes in jeopardy.
For all the reasons outlined above, we ask that this committee not punish New Hampshire Democrats and recognize the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary in 2024. Let us as Democrats enact a calendar that meets the goals of greater diversity earlier in our process while not putting the fortunes of Democrats in any state at risk.
Thank you for your consideration,
Ray Buckley, Chair