(Bloomberg) — Democrats voted Friday to move the South Carolina primary to the front of their presidential nominating calendar, displacing Iowa in a bid to involve more minority voters and move away from caucuses that some say disadvantage working-class voters.
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In a meeting of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, the Rules and Bylaws panel approved a proposal that put South Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan.
The move marked the end to an era in which the Iowa caucuses winnowed the field of presidential candidates that first began in 1972. The full DNC still has to approve the changes in a formal vote, likely in early 2023.
Over the years, the Iowa caucuses turned into a crucial but not always decisive battleground, famously elevating Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008. Yet Pete Buttigieg won the 2020 caucuses.
Technical snafus marred that year’s contest, and the nomination was ultimately decided by Biden’s come-from-behind win in South Carolina.
In a letter released Thursday night, Biden endorsed reordering the Democratic nominating process, saying that the party “must ensure that voters of color have a voice” and arguing that caucuses disadvantage “hourly workers” and others who don’t have the flexibility to attend a process that can involve hours of deliberation in person.
Representative James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat credited with resuscitating Biden’s wheezing 2020 presidential primary campaign, said the president called him on Thursday and told him that he was recommending that the Palmetto State be first in the party’s nominating contest.
“I appreciate the recommendation that’s made by the president. I hope that we follow that recommendation,” Clyburn said.
Neither Iowa or New Hampshire have large populations of minority voters, particularly African-Americans. But South Carolina does.
Clyburn said that he was content with South Carolina’s historical position in the primary calendar and that Biden’s recommendation to move the state to the front of the line was surprising. But it’s also a recognition of how valuable Black voters are to the Democratic base, Clyburn said.
The primary calendar plan also requires that New Hampshire expand access to early voting or lose its spot in the calendar. The state is one of only four that currently don’t have either no-excuse vote-by-mail or in-person early voting.
(Updates with more details of the change throughout)
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