Why Joe Biden is missing from the New Hampshire primary ballot

Democratic voters in New Hampshire hoping to support President Joe Biden in the state’s primary on Tuesday may be surprised to find his name missing from their ballot papers.

Instead, they will see only those of his challengers – Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips and eccentric self-help guru Marianne Williamson – and will have to write in Mr Biden’s name themselves if they wish to cast a vote for him.

His absence is a result of a disagreement between the Granite State and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) over the president’s request that South Carolina be the first state to have a say in his pursuit of a second term in the White House on the basis that it is more reflective of the party’s diverse demographic make up, which is why he was not in contention in the Iowa Caucus on 15 January.

South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary is scheduled for 3 February so New Hampshire would have been required to move its own contest to 6 February, the same day as Nevada, in order to accommodate Mr Biden’s preference.

However, the Republican-run state of New Hampshire cherishes the first-in-the-nation status its primary contests enjoy and which is enshrined in its law and has therefore refused to play ball, insisting that the Democratic vote goes ahead with or without the president.

That leaves only Mr Phillips and Ms Williamson on the ballot and no delegates at stake, with the DNC dismissing the event as insignificant and instructing the New Hampshire Democratic Party to “educate the public” that next Tuesday’s primary is of no consequence to the 2024 race.

However, its attitude has angered the state’s attorney general John Formella, who wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the committee on 12 January warning it not to try to “prevent or deter New Hampshire voters from participating” in the primary.

Mr Formella continued, rather huffily: “Regardless of whether the DNC refuses to award delegates to the party’s national convention based on the results… this New Hampshire election is not ‘meaningless’.”

He suggested that any statements to the contrary were “false, deceptive, and misleading”.

Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, appeared amused by Mr Formella’s hurt tone and responded: “It’s safe to say in New Hampshire the DNC is less popular than the New York Yankees.”

But he also assured the AG: “Nothing has changed, and we look forward to seeing a great Democratic voter turnout on 23 January.”

The stand-off between the state and the DNC means Mr Biden has not been allowed to campaign in the state, but that has not stopped him sending Cabinet members north to look in on things, notably transport secretary Pete Buttigieg, education secretary Miguel Cardona, energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and US trade representative Katherine Tai.

A local grassroots volunteer group, not formally aligned with the president’s official re-election campaign, has meanwhile set about organising a write-in effort to ensure Democratic voters are apprised of the situation in the hope of saving their man from suffering negative headlines about his “defeat” in the New Hampshire primary, which could have a knock-on impact elsewhere, given that momentum and perception are such crucial factors in presidential races.

The group, Write-In Biden, has acknowledged that asking people to manually add the president’s name to their ballot paper is “very difficult” and warned that Tuesday’s results are unlikely to reflect the true extent of his support in their state.

Whatever happens, Mr Biden actually performed dismally in the last Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire in February 2020, finishing a lowly fifth behind Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Mr Buttigieg and winner Bernie Sanders but nevertheless went on to secure the party nomination and, eventually, the presidency.

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