What If Nevada Voted First In The Democratic Presidential Primaries? Or New Jersey? Hawaii?
We crunched the numbers on different criteria the Democratic Party might consider to reorganize its primary calendar.
By Geoffrey Skelley, 538, March 24, 2022, (excerpts)
When it comes to the presidential primary calendar, it can feel like if you’re not first (or, at least, not living in one of the four states that get to vote early on), you’re last. For a long time now, that has meant that if you don’t hail from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, candidates and political media could care less what you think.
But for Democrats that might finally change. Concerns about Iowa and New Hampshire’s representativeness have only grown in recent years. Not to mention that after Iowa’s disastrous 2020 caucuses, where myriad technical problems hampered the reporting of results, there have been renewed calls for the Democratic Party to alter its calendar ahead of the 2024 presidential cycle.
The latest push came earlier this month, when the Des Moines Register reported that the Democratic National Committee was examining a draft proposal to determine which states would vote early. Under that proposal, states would seek a waiver to vote early based on multiple criteria, including a state’s “ability to run [a] fair, transparent and inclusive primary”; ethnic diversity; geographic diversity; union representation; and general election competitiveness. And although the DNC didn’t end up considering the proposal at its March gathering, intraparty debate over the calendar will continue, with the possibility that some set of these criteria will play a role in determining the voting order of states in 2024.
With that in mind, we took a look at what the primary calendar might look like if the early-voting states were determined by these sorts of criteria. Of course, not every state would apply for a waiver, and we also can’t know for sure what data the DNC would use or, moreover, what secret sauce it would employ when deciding how to weigh various data points; nor does the DNC have full top-down control over the voting order of states. But! If we set all that aside, this might still be the direction in which the party moves, so here’s a look at which states would score well — or poorly — based on the fairness of their elections, their ethnic and racial diversity, their rate of union membership and their competitiveness in the 2020 presidential election….
On the DNC’s next metric — the racial and ethnic diversity of a state — there is more of a stark difference. Iowa once again scores poorly as one of the whitest states in the country, but so does New Hampshire. In fact, this lack of diversity in the first two states to vote is one of the biggest criticisms of the Democratic primary calendar, especially considering about 2 in 5 Democrats identify as people of color, according to the Pew Research Center. We don’t know how the DNC would measure the diversity of a state — for instance, would they consider the overall diversity of the state or just the diversity among Democrats? — but one straightforward way to measure a state’s diversity is to use the U.S. Census Bureau’s Diversity Index, which calculates the likelihood that two people chosen at random in a state will be from different racial and ethnicity groups. Based on that measure, western states like Hawaii, California and Nevada score extremely well, as the table below shows.
Hawaii is the most diverse state… (chart)
Labor union membership was another criteria laid out in the draft resolution, and while participation in unions has declined markedly over the past 50 years, organized labor remains an influential part of the Democratic coalition. It spends millions on behalf of Democratic candidates, and Biden won 56 percent of voters in union households in 2020, according to national exit polls. Here, too, Hawaii tops the list, although it just narrowly edges out New York as the state with the largest share of workers who belong to unions as of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hawaii and New York are the most unionized states …. (chart)
Hawaii doesn’t have a presidential primary law — Democrats there used a party-run event in 2020 — but the Aloha State is still an attractive early-state option (maybe most of all for campaign reporters) given how well it scores on both diversity and union membership….
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