The Nevada Assembly took the first steps this week to make the state the new first-in-the-nation primary, leapfrogging Iowa and New Hampshire on the presidential voting calendar in 2024.
A Nevada Assembly committee advanced Democrat-backed legislation on Thursday to replace Nevada’s party-run caucuses with a state-run primary election on the first Tuesday in February during presidential years – or Feb. 6, 2024, for the next election cycle.
The legislation would then go to a full vote in the state assembly, but it could run afoul of national Democratic and Republican Party rules that set the nominating calendar and have previously penalized rogue states that tried to move up their primary dates.
The bill reflects some Democrats’ concern that Iowa and New Hampshire wield too much power in determining presidential nominees, despite the fact that their states are predominantly white and do not reflect the diversity of the Democratic Party. There has been growing momentum to dethrone Iowa, especially after the 2020 caucuses were marred by technical glitches that delayed the announcement of a winner for days.
“The purpose of this bill is to set Nevada up to be the first presidential nominating state in the nation, not just in the West,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said Thursday during a committee hearing.
Nevada, according to Frierson, better reflects the diversity of the country while remaining small enough for presidential candidates to launch effective retail campaigns.
“Nevada has consistently punched above our weight when it comes to elevating the issues that we experienced every day to national importance,” said Frierson, a Democrat who authored the legislation. “… Our voices are diverse and better reflect the rest of the country than the current nominating structure.”
The bill passed out of committee on a 7-4 party-line vote, sending it to a full assembly vote at a later date. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has long advocated for Nevada to be included on the presidential nominating ballot.
Republicans opposed to the measure expressed concern about the state incurring a new cost to run an election, which they estimated at more than $5 million, and potentially putting the state in violation of Republican National Committee (RNC) rules.
Nevada’s Republican National Committeeman, Jim DeGraffenreid, has warned that changing the law “violates party rules” and Nevada is already one of the first states to vote in presidential elections.
“Given Nevada’s post-pandemic budget situation, we don’t believe this is a good use of state resources,” DeGraffenreid said. “Especially when our party has demonstrated the ability to hold a successful caucus with participation rivaling that of the primary election.”
The Democratic National Committee is still analyzing what happened during the 2020 presidential election cycle before drafting new rules and potential reforms for the 2024 cycle. Because the rules have not yet been decided, the DNC has not yet formally stated whether it supports or opposes Nevada’s early moves.
“We will continue to let the process play out, as it does every four years,” DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “We look forward to hearing the insight and recommendations from all interested parties on the 2020 reforms, and on the 2024 calendar at the appropriate time in the process.”