Nevada Bumps New Hampshire, Iowa From Being First U.S. States to Hold Presidential Primaries

Nevada will bump Iowa and New Hampshire from being the first U.S. states to hold presidential primaries thanks to a law signed by Nevada's Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday.

The law would make Nevada the first to vote in the 2024 presidential primaries but the historic change needs to be agreed upon by the national political parties, the Associated Press reported. On Tuesday, Republicans in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina expressed their opposition to changing the national schedule as Iowa has held the first spot followed by New Hampshire then Nevada.

"Nevada represents a diverse constituency that presidential candidates need to talk to. It is not just for us. It is for candidates to vet their issues and communicate with the kind of communities that they're going to be asking to vote for them in the national presidential election," said Nevada's Speaker of the House Jason Frierson, who advocated for the change.

So far, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been silent on whether it would support giving Nevada the lead spot.

For more reporting from the Associated Press see below.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak
Governor Steve Sisolak (D-Nev.) speaks to supporters during a Biden-Harris voter mobilization drive-in event in Las Vegas on October 2, 2020. Sisolak signed a law making Nevada the first state to vote in the 2024 presidential primaries, bumping Iowa and New Hampshire. Ronda Churchill/AFP via Getty Images

Signing the law is a gamble.

It's likely to set off maneuvering by other states, especially Iowa and New Hampshire, to move up their contests. If the national political parties do not agree to changes in the calendar, state parties could risk losing their delegates at presidential nominating conventions.

The DNC isn't expected to start writing rules for its nominating process until next year.

Democrats in Nevada, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, launched the push this year to boost their state after the 2020 primary contest left members of the party questioning the process. They noted Iowa's problem-plagued caucuses and the fact that the two traditional early states are overwhelmingly white, unlike Nevada.

Before he went on to win his party's nomination, President Joe Biden performed poorly in Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary. In Nevada, with a much more racially diverse population that mirrors the U.S. as a whole, he finished second.

That gave Biden momentum heading into South Carolina's primary, which then catapulted him to a string of Super Tuesday victories.

The new law changes Nevada's contest from a party-run, in-person caucus meeting to a government-run primary election. Democrats nationally started shifting away from caucuses to primaries before 2020, citing the difficulty of attending an in-person meeting and the fiddly math involved to determine who wins the most delegates.

The law will require the presidential primary to be held on the first Tuesday in February in a presidential election year.

Frierson's comments came Friday at a bill signing ceremony in Las Vegas.

He said he's confident Nevada can make its case and persuade both national parties to let it go first. He said those conversations have already started and will continue, but he did not offer more details.

Iowa and New Hampshire have signaled they're willing to fight to protect their status. New Hampshire has a state law requiring its presidential primary to be held at least seven days ahead of any other similar contest. The law also gives the New Hampshire secretary of state the exclusive power to set the primary date.

Racially diverse South Carolina could make a bid to move up as well. The Southern state is seen as a bellwether for candidates' abilities to appeal to Black voters, who play a key role in the Democratic electorate. The state has the benefit of one of its own, Jaime Harrison, as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee.

"We are going to continue to let the process play out, as it does every four years, and look forward to hearing the insight and recommendations from all interested parties on the 2020 reforms, and on the 2024 calendar at the appropriate time in the process," Harrison said in a statement Friday.

Biden has a huge influence on the process as head of the party, but it's not clear where he stands on shaking up the calendar. White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined this week to comment on the order of presidential primary contests.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a mentor of Harrison's who is also a close ally of Biden's, told The Associated Press in an interview this month that there is "clear and convincing evidence that having Iowa and New Hampshire create candidate momentum is not a good thing."

"Those candidates on both sides — Democrats and Republicans — have not fared well when they get into the general elections," Clyburn said.

Asked specifically about Nevada's moves, Clyburn said he supported a plan that moved the two traditional first states of Iowa and New Hampshire out of contention, because of what he has characterized as their relatively homogenous makeup. He said that "Nevada can do what it wishes," but noted the decision is ultimately up to the DNC's rules committee.

"I don't have any problems with Nevada being first," Clyburn said. "I personally, though, have a problem with Iowa being first. Just give South Carolina its shot in the pre-primary window, and I think we can give guidance to the rest of this country as to how we ought to shake out our candidates, and I think that the history proves that."

Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signs a bill into law Friday, June 11, 2021, in Las Vegas. The law would make Nevada the first to vote on the 2024 presidential primary contests, though national political parties would need to agree to changes in the calendar or state parties could risk losing their delegates at presidential nominating conventions. John Locher/AP Photo