WASHINGTON - The Democratic National Committee announced a new timeline Tuesday for reviewing the party's presidential nominating process, after missing a deadline set by delegates at the party's 2020 convention to conduct a "comprehensive and structured review" by March about issues such as voter access and the usefulness of caucuses.
The new schedule will include meetings in May and over the summer to discuss the party's nominating process, which was marred in 2020 by vote-counting failures in caucuses and an escalating debate over the lack of racial diversity of the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, which consume a disproportionate amount of time and money from the presidential candidates.
Under the new plan, meetings to review the 2020 elections will be streamed on YouTube and public comment will be solicited online, through a format that has not been announced, as the party lays the groundwork for what promises to be a difficult debate over how to schedule and structure the 2024 presidential primary season.
Former DNC chairman Tom Perez has publicly advocated for more racially diverse states to vote first in the nominating process, and Nevada, with a significant Latino population, has been jockeying to take the first-in-the-nation primary position away from New Hampshire.(The fourth early state, South Carolina, is the first that is dominated by Black voters.)
At the same time, the party will probably battle again over the wisdom of the Iowa caucuses, which have struggled to incorporate absentee voters, even as Democrats have embraced early andmail balloting as basic voting rights.
The review this year will be conducted by the Rules and Bylaws Committee, a group of party insiders and elected DNC members that wasappointed by Perez. The final decision on the 2024 nominating schedule is expected to be made in 2022, after JaimeHarrison, the newly elected chairman, seats a rules committee at a national party meeting this fall.
Under a resolution passed last year atthe party's national convention, the initial review of the nominating process was supposed to be completed by Wednesday, but the party did not act. In a statementfrom a spokesperson, the party suggested that more time would "ensure maximum engagement with the public and all stakeholders."
Larry Cohen, who co-chaired the Unity Reform Commission that helped set the rules for the 2020 cycle and pushed the convention resolution calling for a review, said he wanted to see continued discussion about opening all nomination contests to same-day registration and more public participation, including an absentee-voting process.Those moves are traditionally controlled by states.He referenced New York and New Jersey, which limit same-day party registration to vote in primaries.
"It will be late, based on the date and the resolution," Cohen said of the review. "But it's much better later and carefully thought out."
He and others have more recently argued that the 2024 nomination plan has to embody the same principles that Democrats have embraced in general elections, by making voting easier with features such as vote by mail. He has also said he wants to reconsider the nominating calendar and the possibility of consolidating the date early states all vote, an idea sure to be rejected by New Hampshire, where a state law requires that its primary be scheduled a week before any other state's.
"We take any discussions regarding the presidential nominating process seriously," New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley said in a statement. "We will vigilantly monitor any discussions within the DNC and anywhere else."
Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been leading a charge to switch Nevada's nominating contest from a caucus to a primary and make it the first in the nation, a direct challenge to New Hampshire. The legislature is expected to take up a bill on the issue in the coming months.
That has set up a fight that will probably force President Joe Biden and the DNC to mediate a resolution. During the 2008 elections, the party set out a nominating calendar that allowed New Hampshire and then South Carolina to be the first two primaries, while giving Iowa and Nevada the first two caucus slots. The party punished states that refused to abide by denying them a full slate of delegates at the nominating convention, setting a precedent that enforced order in the 2012 and 2016 elections.
Harrison, the former South Carolina party chair, said this month that he had not yet spoken to Biden about the nominating calendar, and that he recognized that four states had traditionally kicked off the nominating season.
"We all were very cognizant that this is an 'every-four-year' approach, that every four years, the DNC, after an election cycle, will evaluate what the schedule will look like," Harrison told New Hampshire television station WMUR on March 12. "And we're going to continue the tradition of doing just that."
Biden, 78, is the oldest U.S. president ever elected. He has said he plans to run for reelection in 2024, though he has acknowledged that it is possible he will not be a candidate again.
"I'm a great respecter of fate," he said last week during a news conference. "I've never been able to plan 4 1/2, 3 1/2 years ahead for certain."