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State Democratic Party Asks That Maryland Be Considered for Early Primary in 2024

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State Democratic Party Asks That Maryland Be Considered for Early Primary in 2024

May 16, 2022 | 7:00 am ET
By Bennett Leckrone
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State Democratic Party Asks That Maryland Be Considered for Early Primary in 2024
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Voters cast ballots in Nashua, N.H., in February 2016, part of that state’s claim to the first-in-the-nation primary. But Democrats in Maryland — and across the country — are seeking to shake up the party’s primary calendar. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

If Maryland is truly “America in Miniature,” should we play a bigger role in picking presidents?

As the Democratic Party looks to reshuffle early presidential primary states for 2024, party leaders want the state to be considered as a host for influential early contests.

The Maryland Democratic Party submitted a letter of intent to the Democratic National Committee to be considered for an early primary in 2024, a national party official confirmed.

“We believe that Maryland would be an excellent early state,” Eva R. Lewis, the executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said in a statement. “In terms of diversity, Maryland is the most diverse state on the East Coast. We have urban, suburban, rural and mountain regions. We are a competitive state that has consistently won large margins for our Democratic Presidential Nominee.”

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina previously had waivers from the Democratic Party to hold nominating contests earlier than other states — but the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted in April to require those states and others to apply for waivers ahead of future elections, the Des Moines Register reported at the time.

Applications for early primaries will be evaluated based on state diversity, competitiveness in general elections and feasibility of holding an early primary.

The move to reshuffle early Democratic primary states comes amid a party-wide push to give people of color more influence in elections — and after technical issues in Iowa led to a delay in election results after the state’s 2020 caucus.

Maryland became more diverse over the past decade, according to U.S. Census data, and the number of state residents who identified as white alone dropped below half of the state’s population. And the National Conference of State Legislatures found in 2020 that the Maryland General Assembly outpaces most other state legislatures in terms of gender and racial representation.

Larry Stafford, the executive director of Progressive Maryland, said Maryland’s Democratic voters are “perhaps more broadly representative of the Democratic Party’s electorate across the country.”

“Maryland is a state with a high proportion of people of color,” Stafford said. “Black voters make up a significant portion of the electorate. I think it could be a step in a positive direction.”

He added the move would put a national spotlight on Maryland and highlight the state’s communities.

“I think that Maryland being elevated in that way can totally help to make sure that communities like Baltimore are further elevated on the national stage, and make sure that at the federal level our communities get the investment and support that we deserve.”

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, likewise said Maryland is “one of the most diverse states in the country” and early primaries in the state would be reflective of the Democratic electorate across the country.

Kromer said Maryland’s proximity to Washington, D.C., and easy access to large national airports like Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport also makes logistical sense for hosting an early primary. Maryland is also among the 10 smallest states in the nation in terms of geographic size, and presidential candidates who are members of Congress, for instance, wouldn’t have to go far from D.C. to campaign anywhere in the state.

And Susan Turnbull, a former state party chair who was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Benjamin Jealous’ running mate in 2018, said Maryland has earned its “America in miniature” moniker. She noted that state Democrats come from all walks of life, from Baltimore and largely suburban counties like Prince George’s and Montgomery to mountainous Western Maryland and agricultural centers like the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.

Turnbull, who has also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee, added that she thinks Iowa’s caucuses will still have value, even if the state doesn’t vote first in future primaries. She spent more than a week in Iowa in 2020 when she was campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and said the caucuses are a hands-on experience that allow voters to interact with each other.

Over the past half century, Maryland has traditionally held its presidential primary in the spring, often after the nominating contests have been decided. One notable exception was in 2008, when Maryland, D.C. and Virginia held a “DMV primary” on Feb. 12, and it played a critical role in adding to Barack Obama’s momentum for the Democratic nomination.

For 2024, state Democratic parties in the current early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina sought to retain their early status. Party officials in Puerto Rico also requested an early primary.

Other state Democratic parties that have asked to be considered for early primaries include Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, Colorado and Washington. Democrats Abroad, the arm of the party for United States citizens living temporarily or permanently abroad, also requested an early primary.

Maryland has voted for the eventual Democratic presidential nominee in every primary since 1996. A cycle earlier, the state opted for former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas over eventual nominee Bill Clinton.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee is expected to make a recommendation for the primary calendar in early August, and then the full DNC will vote on that recommendation at a meeting early September.