The plan passed with near-unanimous support from the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. But other states are threatening a rebellion. And Georgia Republicans, who control the Legislature, must still sign off on changes to the schedule.
The proposed change comes after intense lobbying from Georgia officials, who have said the state’s size and diversity should ensure it a spot earlier in the mix. Georgia also helped Biden clinch his presidency, flipping for the first time since 1992.
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the chair of the state Democratic Party, said the vote reflects a “commitment to diversity and inclusivity, and we are grateful for the committee’s recognition.” She said Democrats remain focused on Tuesday’s U.S. Senate runoff between U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
There was fierce pushback to the proposed changes elsewhere. New Hampshire’s two Democratic U.S. senators pledged to work to keep the nation’s first primary there, and Nevada officials said they would refuse to move their primary to comply with Biden’s plan.
States that rebel against the calendar could face sanctions from the party, including the disqualification of delegates they award. Biden wrote in a letter to the committee that the changes “ensure that voters of color have a voice” much earlier in the process.
Under the new plan, South Carolina would kick off the primary with a Feb. 3 vote. New Hampshire and Nevada would jointly hold their contests three days later. Georgia would vote on Feb. 13 and then Michigan on Feb. 27.
Left out of the process would be Iowa, which has held the first-in-the-nation caucuses since the 1970s but was home to a problem-plagued vote in 2020.
The proposed move is a win for the Southerners in Biden’s orbit, including Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina-based chair of the DNC; Williams, an influential freshman legislator; and former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a senior Biden adviser.
Bottoms is also seen as instrumental in Atlanta’s pending bid to host the Democratic National Convention in 2024, along with her successor, current Mayor Andre Dickens.
The schedule overhaul still faces procedural and logistical hurdles. One of the most significant is gaining the necessary approval from Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Aides to the Republicans were tightlipped on Friday, though Raffensperger deputy Jordan Fuchs said the office would insist that both party primaries would be held on the same day. Other Republican officials privately quipped about Democrats touting the voting policies of a state that adopted GOP-backed electoral rules that they long pilloried.
But the scheduling change could be a boon for Kemp, who has emerged as a potential 2024 contender and could benefit from a boost from his home state.