Nevada aims to shake up U.S. presidential nominating calendar

Election staff work in the Clark County Election Center in North Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.

Nevada is poised to challenge Iowa and New Hampshire to become the first state to vote in the 2024 U.S. presidential nominating contests, a move that if successful would shake up a political system that has been in place for decades.

Both chambers of the state’s Democratic-controlled state legislature passed a bill over the weekend that would seek to make its primary the nation’s first, subject to the signature of Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and the approval of the national Republican and Democratic parties.

The Democratic National Committee did not immediately endorse the idea, with Chair Jaime Harrison saying in a statement it will decide its primary calendar “at the appropriate time.”

The Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sisolak’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on whether he would sign the legislation.

It is far from the first time a U.S. state has sought to cut in front of Iowa and New Hampshire, which for decades have held off challenges, sometimes hosting their contests in early January to do so.

Advocates say fast-growing Nevada better reflects the racial and economic diversity of the country than disproportionately white and rural New Hampshire and Iowa.

Iowa’s Democratic caucus was also marred by technical woes in 2020 that delayed official results by several weeks. Nevada was the third state to hold a nominating contest last year.

The Nevada bill would change the state’s nominating contest from party-run caucuses to a primary election administered by the state, to be held on the first Tuesday in February. Advocates, including several progressive groups, said that would allow more voters to participate.

Nevada’s Republican Party has warned that national political parties could ignore the results if they decided that it violated their rules. “Trying to play chicken with primary dates is not a battle we will win,” Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald wrote to state lawmakers in April.

Democratic Party officials in Iowa and New Hampshire said they would fight to retain their status, arguing that their states’ small populations and inexpensive media markets allow lesser-known candidates to build a following.

“We have successfully defended the primary for decades and believe that we have a strong argument for New Hampshire to retain its place,” the state’s Democratic Party chairman, Ray Buckley, said in a statement.

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