The Democratic National Convention (DNC) approved an election schedule change on Feb. 4 to make South Carolina the first state to vote in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary circuit. South Carolina will vote on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27.

Iowa has been the first nominating state in the Democratic primaries since 1972. In the 2020 presidential election, South Carolina was the fourth nominating state, holding its presidential primary election on Feb. 29, 2020. Originally scheduled for March 24, 2020, Georgia delayed the vote to June 9, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

U.S. President Joe Biden first proposed the schedule change at a White House dinner in early December 2022. According to Biden, the main reason for this switch is to increase minority voters’ influence during the 2024 election cycle.

Though South Carolina ranks No. 23 for diversity in the United States, the state reports a relatively high white to Black ratio, with the population being 26.7% Black and 68.6% white. The racial composition of South Carolina by Democrats is 41% white and 51% Black.  In contrast, Iowa touts a 90.1% white and 4.3% Black population.

“There’s been some dissension among Democrats in other states about the privileged position of New Hampshire and Iowa,” said Associate Professor of Political Science Zachary Peskowitz. “It’s not surprising that President Biden is attempting to alter the primary calendar.”

Emory community members line up for the last day of early voting at the 1599 Clifton Road polling station on Nov. 4. (Matthew Chupack/Executive Editor)

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee voted on the proposal on Feb. 4. Though many Democrats were happy about this change, a few representatives from Iowa and New Hampshire — including Iowa Democratic Party Chairman and Rep. Ross Wilburn (D-46) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) — disagreed with the calendar switch because they lost their first primary status.

Since New Hampshire shares their Feb. 6 ticket with Nevada, the switch effectively ends its first-in-the-nation standing. Though New Hampshire votes second in the primary election cycle, presidential candidates previously focused solely on Iowa and New Hampshire for early momentum and media coverage. Sharing the title with Nevada also violates a statute in the New Hampshire Constitution which says the state must hold a presidential primary election “7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election.” 

Michigan and Georgia were added as being among the first five states to hold primary elections for the Democratic Party, ousting Iowa.

In 2020, Biden earned 48.4% of votes in South Carolina with the help of South Carolina Rep. and former House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-6). Peskowitz noted Biden’s performance in South Carolina as a possible motivator in making it the first Democratic presidential primary voting state.

“It was really instrumental to his winning the nomination,” Peskowitz said. “Jim Clyburn, the Democratic leader in the House, essentially played the biggest role in securing Biden’s nomination with anyone. So I think Biden feels very favorable about his experience in South Carolina in 2020 and understandably wants to reward the state.”

Emory College Republicans and Young Democrats of Emory member Austin Watkinson (25C) agreed, stating that Biden advocated for the change because he won the 2020 South Carolina primary election.

“There is definitely some favoritism from Biden’s team regarding, particularly, the state of South Carolina,” Watkinson said. “We won that state, and that sort of propelled him into the Democratic nominee position.”

With a nationwide approval rating of 43%, Biden’s age has raised doubts among the voting populace. Yet Peskowitz said Biden still maintains his likability with Democratic voters, polling at 80%. 

“If someone chooses to challenge him and actually makes a campaign out of it and raises questions about picking South Carolina as the first state, then maybe it will become a contentious political issue,” Peskowitz said. “Right now, there’s among the democratic electorate a lot of deference to Biden’s wishes.”

Some opponents of this change argue that if Biden went against other Democratic candidates and lost, changing the primary schedule would be a tremendous waste of money and resources. Though South Carolina touts a diverse state population, it remains a hardline conservative state — not a battleground.

“It’s a big waste of time, money and energy on something that most people don’t really focus on, especially the opposing party,” Watkinson said.

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Clement Lee (he/him) (24Ox) is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is on the pre-BBA track. Outside the Wheel, Clement can be found reading new books or going on long runs in the woods.