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How moving up Michigan presidential primary could increase state's clout

biden on stage
In a Thursday letter, President Joe Biden urged the Democratic National Committee, which sets the primary calendar, to ensure diversity among early states. (Miroslav Tomoski / Shutterstock.com)
  • Michigan could be one of the five earliest states to hold presidential primaries in 2024
  • Michigan’s state Legislature, as well as President Joe Biden, are supportive of the move
  • A Democratic National Committee panel voted to move Michigan up, but a final decision is expected in February

LANSING — Michigan’s political clout could increase after a Democratic National Committee panel voted Friday to make the state one of the first five states to hold presidential primaries in 2024. 

The vote comes a day after President Joe Biden wrote a letter to the Democratic National Committee, lobbying to eliminate caucuses during the nominating process and ensure states that reflect “the overall diversity of our party and our nation” can go early in the nomination process.

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Doing so would push back Iowa, which had all sorts of trouble with its 2020 caucus including reporting delays. Under the proposed calendar approved by the DNC panel, Michigan would be the fifth state to hold presidential primaries on Feb. 27, following South Carolina on Feb. 3, New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 6 and Georgia on Feb. 13, The Detroit News reported

A final decision is expected in February.

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“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden wrote. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, said an earlier presidential primary would boost revenue for the hospitality industry in Michigan and force political candidates and news outlets to discuss state issues, such as agriculture and manufacturing. Candidates would have to meet voters at ice sculpture shows, farmers market, car shows — events “where real people gather,” she said.

“How do we bring our supply chains home? How do we keep things from going to the South?” she said. “The issues that make or break us every day will be talked about.”

Michigan Democrats have spent decades lobbying for a calendar switch, but the push intensified this year.

In June, Dingell and other state Democrats pleaded Michigan’s case to the DNC in Washington, D.C., pointing to the state’s diversity, affordability to political campaigns and status as a battleground state. Two ex-state GOP chairs — Rusty Hills and Saul Anuzis — also drafted a letter in support of the proposal.

Moving up primary dates would require a nod from the Legislature, which appears supportive. On Tuesday, the state Senate voted 34-1 to move up the primary from the second Tuesday in March to the second Tuesday in February.

Doing so may violate rules of the Republican National Committee, which prohibits states from holding primaries before March 1 except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Derek Muller, law professor at the University of Iowa, tweeted Tuesday.

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The RNC has already set its primary calendar in the spring, allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to continue to be the two first-in-the-nation states in 2024. 

The DNC decided to shuffle the presidential primary calendar after Iowa — traditionally the state to kick off the presidential nomination process — drew backlash in 2020 for its lack of diversity and delays in caucus results.

In his letter, Biden addressed the importance of diversity among the voting-age population, calling Black voters “the backbone of the Democratic Party.” 

“We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar,” he wrote. “It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”

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