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Nevada wants to hold its primaries first in 2024

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For decades, presidential hopefuls have faced their first tests with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. Now, as NPR's Barbara Spunt reports, Democrats are shaking up the calendar with states like Nevada angling to go first.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: On Friday, the Democratic National Committee will begin the process of selecting which handful of states will hold their primaries first in 2024.

ARTIE BLANCO: I get a little giddy and definitely little butterflies.

SPRUNT: That's Artie Blanco, an activist in Nevada who sits on the committee. Blanco thinks her state has the goods to move from third on the calendar to first.

BLANCO: It really is a microcosm of the entire country.

SPRUNT: Criticism of Iowa and New Hampshire's grip on the top two spots of the presidential nominating calendar has been brewing for years. Many Democrats argue the pair doesn't reflect the party's racial diversity. The DNC invited states and territories to apply for the early window. Seventeen made formal pitches over the summer. The committee is weighing a few factors - demographic diversity, competitiveness and election administration. That has Blanco feeling confident.

BLANCO: Nevada checks every single box - our diversity, our economy, union members. We have rural areas. We have urban areas.

SPRUNT: Outside groups are praising its diversity, too. Mi Familia Vota, a Latino civic engagement organization, has endorsed Nevada, a state with growing populations of AAPI and Latino voters. Here's the group's CEO, Hector Sanchez Barba.

HECTOR SANCHEZ BARBA: The states that go first at the moment are not reflective of the diversity and the composition of the nation. So Nevada represents an opportunity for the Democratic Party to evolve.

SPRUNT: And the state has a new arrow in its quiver. It was a Nevada Democrat who clinched Senate control last month. DNC member Yvanna Cancela was part of the team that pitched Nevada to the committee. A big part of the argument - voter access.

YVANNA CANCELA: Democrats have done the work to ensure that our 24-hour economy doesn't hold people back. We have over two weeks of early voting, mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration.

SPRUNT: Nevada passed a law last year establishing it will use a primary in 2024, not a caucus. That's another thing the committee prefers. Lastly, Cancela says Nevada is a state where candidates can campaign without breaking the bank.

CANCELA: It's also a two-media market state, which makes it affordable to campaign on airwaves. And we are big enough to truly test a nominee but small enough for candidates who are more of a longshot to be able to compete.

SPRUNT: But Nevada is just one state aggressively jockeying to be among the first to hold contests. Iowa and New Hampshire want to hold on to their top spots. There's South Carolina, whose Black voters played a crucial role in the 2020 election. And Michigan and Minnesota, fresh off of big election wins for Democrats, are vying to be the new voice of the Midwest. There's complications to the calendar, too. New Hampshire, for instance, a critical purple state, has a law that gives the secretary of state the power to move up the date of the contest to protect its first-in-the-nation status.

TOM PEREZ: Now, I've heard from a few states that, oh, we have a state law that says we must go first. A state can't pass a law telling the Democratic Party who has to go first.

SPRUNT: That's former DNC chair Tom Perez.

PEREZ: If they want to insist on continuing to go first in contravention of whatever rules and procedures the Democratic National Committee puts in place, well, there is a remedy.

SPRUNT: That remedy is the DNC not seating delegates at the nominating convention - a major blow to a state party. Perez adds that reimagining the calendar could also mean multiple states hold their primaries on the same day.

PEREZ: As long as they're small enough so that it doesn't simply reward somebody who has all the money.

SPRUNT: Once the rules committee votes on the new slate of states, it will go to the full DNC for its approval. Barbara Sprunt, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.