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N.H. attorney general accuses DNC of voter suppression over primary fight

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The Democratic Party’s infighting over the New Hampshire primary just got litigious. 

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office on Monday sent a cease-and-desist order to the Democratic National Committee after the national party demanded state Democrats “educate the public” that their upcoming presidential primary is “meaningless.”

In its letter to the DNC, the New Hampshire attorney general’s office declared that that demand was illegal voter suppression and warned the DNC to stop trashing their primary or risk “further enforcement action.”

“Telling any person qualified to register to vote or vote in New Hampshire that the January 23, 2024, New Hampshire democratic Presidential Primary Election is ‘meaningless’… constitutes an attempt to prevent or deter New Hampshire voters from participating [in the primary]… in violation of RSA 659:40, III,” Assistant Attorney General Brendan O’Donnell wrote in the order to the DNC, citing a portion of the state’s voting rights law.

“This matter remains open, and this Office reserves the right to take further enforcement action based on the actions described in this letter and any other actions that violate State election laws,” O’Donnell concludes.

The DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The back-and-forth is the latest fallout from the DNC’s attempt, under direction from President Joe Biden, to demote the New Hampshire primary for his party. The New Hampshire Republican primary remains unchanged.

The DNC last year overhauled their presidential primary calendar for 2024. Iowa was widely expected to lose its place as the kickoff to the campaign after it botched the 2020 caucuses and because of long-standing criticisms that its caucuses were too white and too undemocratic.

The party committee working on the calendar stunned observers and insiders alike, however, when it announced that Biden had communicated his desire to have South Carolina go first, which would demote New Hampshire, a change few expected. 

The DNC swiftly codified Biden’s wishes, saying they were necessary to give voters of color a greater voice in the process, though many noted that Biden happened to win South Carolina in 2000 while he lost Iowa (he came in 4th place) and New Hampshire (5th place) that year. 

But New Hampshire refused to comply with the DNC’s new calendar, citing its century of experience holding the nation’s first presidential primary and a state law that required it hold a primary at least a week before any other state. 

New Hampshire’s secretary of state, a Republican, set the primary’s date for Jan. 23, knowing it would be out of compliance with DNC rules. And the DNC declared the primary invalid and warned the state would lose its delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

But the DNC surprised New Hampshire Democratic insiders when the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which wrote the new calendar and enforces its rules, sent a letter to the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Ray Buckley, on Friday demanding the state party do more to bury the primary

“The NHDP must take steps to educate the public that January 23rd is a non-binding presidential preference event and is meaningless and the NHDP and presidential candidates should take all steps possible not to participate,” the committee’s co-chairs, Jim Roosevelt and Minyon Moore, wrote in their letter, warning that “non-compliant processes can disenfranchise and confuse voters.”

New Hampshire’s political class, regardless of party, is unified in support of their first-in-the-nation primary. 

So the Republican secretary of state and attorney general rushed to the defense of Buckley, the Democratic Party chair, who in turn promoted their counterpunch on social media and in the press. 

“Well, it’s safe to say in New Hampshire, the DNC is less popular than the NY Yankees,” Buckley said of his Red Sox-loving New England state. “State law requires the New Hampshire Secretary of State to conduct the first-in-the-nation primary and he is going to follow the law — period. Nothing has changed, and we look forward to seeing a great Democratic voter turnout on January 23rd.”

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