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Biden left off the ballot in New Hampshire primary

The Democratic dispute over the electoral calendar means that the U.S. president will not appear on the list of candidates

Primarias de New Hampshire
Election workers test the ballot counting machine for the New Hampshire primary at the Derry Municipal Center.Charles Krupa (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

A plaque in the center of Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, reminds tourists that the residents of that state take the primaries very seriously. Since 1920, the state has been the first to vote in the primaries. The sign, outside the state Capitol, states that New Hampshire voters “have routinely favored the candidate who ultimately reaches the Oval Office.” Joe Biden, however, won the Democrat Party’s nomination and the White House after finishing fifth in New Hampshire, winning only 8.4% of the vote. Perhaps that’s why the now-president has pushed to change the calendar for the Democratic primaries. But while Iowa Democrats agreed not to hold the vote last week, New Hampshire has rebelled. And the quarrel over the calendar has meant that Biden will be left off the ballot.

Twenty-one names are on the Democratic ballot, including one president — but in name only — President R. Boddie, of Atlanta. Also on the ballot is Vermin Supreme, an eccentric activist known for wearing a rubber boot as a hat and carrying a giant toothbrush. Of all of them, the only ones with some political weight are Congressman Dean Phillips and self-help book writer Marianne Williamson, who ran in 2020, but withdrew before voting began.

Biden is not disqualified, nor has his eligibility been questioned. This is what has happened to Donald Trump, who is set to be left off the ballot in Colorado and Maine for his role in the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Biden simply missed the deadlines to register as part of the effort to push back the New Hampshire vote.

Although his name does not appear on the ballot, citizens can vote for him by writing his name in the blank box reserved for this purpose. Biden has not campaigned in the state, but his supporters have been encouraging voters to do this to make sure the president clearly wins the vote. A political action committee called Granite for America is sending out three-step instructions on how to cast a write-in vote. This type of voting in the Democrat primaries makes it difficult to count the votes, as the machines do not detect the name, only that the ballot has been cast for an alternative candidate and must be processed manually.

Changing the calendar

Biden urged the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last year to change the order of the primaries, shifting the kickoff from the Iowa caucuses (a white, conservative, religious state) to the South Carolina primary. The goal was to give more power to Black and other minority voters, who are crucial to the party’s rank and file. In February, the Democratic Party approved a new calendar starting with the South Carolina primary on February 3, followed three days later by the New Hampshire and Nevada primaries.

But New Hampshire objected, arguing that it has traditionally held the country’s inaugural primaries — a point even regulated in state law. State law gives New Hampshire Secretary of State, Republican David Scanlan, the exclusive authority to set the date of the 2024 primary. As has been the case for 40 years, he set it for the Tuesday of the week following the Iowa caucuses. State law also states that primaries must be held at least seven days before any other primary.

“New Hampshire has a tradition, and New Hampshire has a law, and both the tradition and the law were going to be followed no matter what,” Scanlan said in November, when setting the date. In his opinion, altering the calendar to favor more racially diverse states sets a bad precedent. “At what point does a state become too old, or too wealthy, or too educated, or too religious to hold an early primary?” he argued.

The DNC asked its party’s candidates not to register for the New Hampshire primary, and Biden — the driving force behind the calendar reform — complied. But that did not stop the process or prevent other presidential hopefuls from registering. In a final twist, the DNC — which governs the nomination process — decided that even if there are primaries, delegates will not be assigned based on their results. The New Hampshire prosecutor has accused the Democrats of voter suppression.

Biden is not the first president not to run in the New Hampshire primary. In 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson did not register and still won thanks to write-in votes. However, his victory was tight and a few weeks later, he announced that he would not run for re-election. Biden, for now, appears to have a large lead. A recent survey by CNN and the University of New Hampshire indicated that 69% of Democratic primary voters plan to write Biden’s name on the ballot, well ahead of Phillips, who is polling at 7%, and Williamson, who is at 6%. The disadvantage of this system is that voters have to write the president’s name on the ballot. But the upside is that Joe Biden is an easy name to write.

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