Actually, this is a post (at least in part) that FHQ put together last January when the General Court in New Hampshire was tweaking the election law regarding the timing of its presidential primary. It has been sitting in the queue for a year for some reason; probably because it perfectly proves the point that the "warning" that the Granite state will protect its position really is not all that newsworthy.
Well, it is (...around these parts). And The Union Leader's John DiStaso is absolutely right in saying that New Hampshirites on the Democratic Change Commission and on the Rules and Bylaws Committee were awfully quiet when it came time to vote on the delegate selection rules for 2012. They knew the proposed four day window between New Hampshire and Nevada would be in violation of the state law. In my own personal experience at the Change Commission's May meeting, Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and committeeman, uttered nary a word about this conflict.
FHQ remains neutral in these things (the pros and cons of New Hampshire's privileged position -- Hey, I just research this stuff.), but one would have to see right off that the powers-that-be in the Granite state would stand up to defend their turf as they see it. If they allow the law's enforcement to be fudged in any way, the state becomes vulnerable to challenges in future presidential nomination cycles.
That said, New Hampshire did let the law enforcement slide somewhat in 2008. That seven day window applies on either side of the primary in New Hampshire -- before and after. Given how Iowa and New Hampshire decided to adhere to the unwritten rule that no contest should take place outside of the election year, both contests ended up compressed in a six day period between January 3 and January 8, 2008. [Notice that no one is mentioning the Wyoming Republican caucuses on January 5, still.] This was likely the motivation for the law change last January (described below in the text from the unpublished post); to codify an exemption for Iowa. In other words, there is some room for ex post facto maneuvering.
...but it is dangerous (from the perspective of the Granite state) and New Hampshire will never do anything to jeopardize its position. The key in all of this is that New Hampshire secretary of state, Bill Gardner holds all the power. The state is able to avoid any partisan squabbles in the General Court because the decision on the timing of the primary bypasses the legislature altogether and is in the secretary of state's hands. New Hampshire is much better equipped to move at the last minute than any other state.
Unpublished Post from January 8, 2010:
From the AP:
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire lawmakers hope to end any doubt about the state's intent to continue holding the first presidential primary.Maddeningly limited in the scope of its information, isn't it?
The state House is voting Wednesday on whether to give the secretary of state wider latitude in setting the primary date. That would help protect the state's tradition of being first.
State Rep. Jim Splaine is sponsoring the bill. The measure will go to the Senate if the House approves it and is widely expected to become law.
The details of the changes in Rep. Jim Splaine's bill (HB 341) before the New Hampshire House of Representatives are below. As it is under current law, the New Hampshire secretary of state has the ability to set the date of the Granite state's presidential primary, and that law requires that the primary be at least a week before any other similar contest.
Actually, this is the same bill that Splaine introduced during the 2009 legislative session and it just carried over to 2010. Here's what we had to say about the General Court's efforts during the early spring of 2009:
The bottom line is that when the legislature makes a change to the law concerning the presidential primary, it is typically couched in terms of 1) a change in the duties of the secretary of state on the matter and 2) to protect the state's position in the nomination process. And that's what they've done with the law below.
Here's is the New Hampshire law as it stands now:
"Presidential Primary Election. 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. Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose."The real meat and potatoes here is the seven day cushion that New Hampshire requires between its primary and any other "similar election." Similar election has usually meant another primary, but the Democratic Party's rules for delegate selection initially placed the Nevada caucuses in between Iowa and New Hampshire and raised the issue of other states' caucuses challenging New Hampshire's primacy. The changes called for in HB 341 take care of that, though (Changes in Bold):
"Presidential Primary Election. 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, or holds a caucus or in the interpretation of the secretary of state holds any contest at which delegates are chosen for the national conventions, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous. Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose. Any caucus of a state first held before 1975 shall not be affected by this provision."Seven day cushion? Check.
Protection from interloping caucuses? Check.
Exception for Iowa? Check.