As the Democratic Party wrestles with reforming the 2024 presidential primary schedule, President Biden is pushing a proposal that would put South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Georgia in the early contest window. Implementing this proposal faces challenges—in particular the need for Republican-controlled states like Georgia’s to go along with it, as well as the continued insistence by states like New Hampshire and Iowa that they go earlier regardless of what the party dictates.
Even assuming those hurdles can be overcome, the schedule put forward by the White House empirically and dramatically diminishes the influence of Latinos on the Democratic presidential nominating process. In doing so, this proposed gerrymander will give Republicans more fodder for convincing Latino voters that the Democratic Party is not a home for them. Given the erosion of Democratic Party support among the fastest-growing segment of the American population, that’s a problem.
The early-state portion of the Democratic nominating process has never been about accumulating the delegates needed to win the nomination. Providing smaller, less expensive states central focus in the early stages of the primary schedule ensures all the candidates—both front-runners and dark horses—can make their case to the various constituencies of the party before Super Tuesday and the bigger, more expensive, and more delegate-rich contests. In 2020, the delegates allocated collectively by the first four states equaled about 4 percent of the total delegates at the convention. Of those four states, only Nevada had a large Latino vote. Even so, Nevada’s delegates were about 25 percent of the delegates allocated in this early window.
Under the new proposal, more than twice as many delegates will be chosen in the early window period than in 2020—which not only erodes its purpose but also diminishes the role of Latino voters. Of the five states the president has proposed, Latino voters are still only heavily represented in Nevada. (The remaining four states have Latino populations of less than 10 percent. Because the Latino population is younger overall, the percentage of voting-age people is lower than other demographic groups.) Going from one contest in four to one in five means less focus on the aspirations and needs of the Latino community. In addition, with a larger delegate pool being chosen in the early window, Latinos will see their influence cut in half—from 25 percent of total delegates chosen in 2020 early window to only 12 percent in 2024.
Despite the president’s rhetoric, one group of people of color will see its influence in the Democratic nominating process diminished, not improved. This will be compounded by the fact that the contest in Nevada (and other smaller states) will suffer as more expensive early states—with far more delegates—consume candidates’ resources. In this new environment, the early state window becomes less about introducing the field of contenders to the voters and more about accumulating delegates. If, as proposed, Nevada gets scheduled the same day as New Hampshire, all these issues will be magnified, while the concerns of Latino families are pushed more and more to the back burner.
The future of the Democratic Party relies on bringing together a racially, regionally, and ideologically diverse coalition of voters. We do a disservice to our collective future when a critical constituency in that coalition—America’s Latino community—is disempowered in the choice of the party’s nominee.
Frankly, Latinos were better off under the 2020 schedule, which emphasized the importance of Nevada. Then, in places like Iowa, Senator Bernie Sanders organized heavily during the caucus to bring out Iowa’s Latino minority—a critical part of his winning popular vote coalition there.
For some, that’s a good reason to punish the Latino community, as this proposed plan does. For those of us who value Latino voices as well as their votes, it’s just plain wrong.