Why Biden isn’t on the NH primary ballot — and other things you should know ahead of the state’s presidential primaries this week

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The 2024 presidential primary season continues on Tuesday in New Hampshire, where primary voters will cast their ballots on Jan. 23.

The election comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out of the Republican race on Sunday and endorsed his political rival, former President Donald Trump, who will now go head to head with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the Granite State.

While Iowa is first in the nation to hold caucuses — which are different from primaries — New Hampshire has prided itself for over a century on holding the first official presidential primary. However, primary day in New Hampshire will look a little different this year — starting with the fact that President Biden’s name will not appear on the Democratic party ballot.

Here’s your guide to everything you should know about the 2024 New Hampshire primaries.

What happens on primary day?

New Hampshire will hold two simultaneous elections on Tuesday, Jan. 23: one for the Republican Party and the other for the Democratic Party, but the latter comes with caveats (more on that later). State law mandates that polls be open for a minimum of eight hours and cannot close later than 8 p.m. ET.

As in every other presidential primary, New Hampshire Republicans will cast their ballots, selecting who they want to choose as the GOP’s nominee for president. There are 22 GOP delegates for the 2024 Republican National Convention up for grabs in the state.

New Hampshire uses a proportional method to allocate delegates to different candidates based on the statewide vote. As long as the candidate receives at least 10% of the statewide vote, they receive delegates. If there are leftover delegates, they are awarded to the candidate that got the most votes in the primary.

There will also be a Democratic primary on Jan. 23 in New Hampshire, but it will be unsanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.

What’s going on with the Democratic primary? And why won’t Biden’s name appear on the ballot?

In an effort to make the primary process more diverse, President Biden urged the DNC to hold the first official Democratic primary of 2024 in South Carolina. (It also doesn’t hurt that Biden won South Carolina’s primary in 2020, while coming in fifth in New Hampshire).

As a result, South Carolina scheduled its Democratic primary for Feb. 3, and the DNC instructed New Hampshire to hold its primary on Feb. 6, the same day as Nevada’s.

But New Hampshire state law says it has to hold its primary one week before any other similar contest. The state’s GOP-led legislature refused to break with tradition to change that law. So, New Hampshire decided to go ahead with an unsanctioned Democratic primary on Jan. 23, while threatening the DNC with legal action.

Biden is prohibited by DNC rules from competing in the New Hampshire primary, which is why his name won’t appear on the ballot, though there are efforts independent of his campaign to get the president’s name added as a write-in.

Because New Hampshire is going against DNC rules, none of the state’s delegates will be awarded based on the results of the primary. This means that whichever Democrat wins the primary won’t actually advance toward the presidential nomination.

Who is on the New Hampshire ballot this year?

To get on a primary ballot in New Hampshire, candidates are required only to fill out a form and pay $1,000. This means voters will have their pick of a long list of candidates, including characters like perennial Libertarian candidate Vermin Supreme, best known for wearing a boot on his head.

Fringe candidate Vermin Supreme demonstrates with Occupy Boston protesters.
Fringe candidate Vermin Supreme demonstrates with Occupy Boston protesters outside a restaurant where Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was holding a town hall meeting Jan. 8, 2012, in Manchester, N.H. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Republican voters will select from among 24 candidates, including Trump and Haley. GOP candidates who have since dropped out of the race — such as DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson — will also appear on the Republican ballot, but they cannot be awarded delegates.

And while Democrats will not be able to vote for Biden, they’ll get to choose from a list of 21 other candidates, including self-help author Marianne Williamson and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips.

What is the point of delegates, anyway?

In the primary process, a candidate needs delegates in order to advance to the next stage in the race for the White House, which is the general election in November.

A candidate who performs well in caucuses and primaries receives delegates. The more delegates a candidate is awarded, the closer they are to receiving the minimum number required to receive their party’s presidential nomination at their respective national conventions this summer. A GOP candidate needs 1,215 out of 2,429 delegates. The Democratic candidate needs 1,969 of 3,936 delegates.

The candidate who receives their party’s presidential nomination goes on to compete in the general election in November, the winner of which will ultimately become the next president of the United States.

Who can vote in the New Hampshire primary?

Tina Guilford, town clerk of Derry, N.H., and deputy town clerk Lynne Gagnon prepare sample ballots while testing vote-counting machines.
Tina Guilford, left, town clerk of Derry, N.H., and deputy town clerk Lynne Gagnon prepare sample ballots while testing vote-counting machines on Jan. 16, ahead of the New Hampshire primary. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Only registered voters can participate, but first-time voters can register to vote the day of the primary. New Hampshire voters can also participate by absentee ballot for valid reasons, but the ballots must be turned in by Jan. 23.

Students attending college in New Hampshire from other states can also participate in the primary, as long as they don’t also vote in their home state.

The primary is considered open, which means voters cast ballots for the party they’re registered with, while undeclared voters can participate in either the Republican or Democratic primary. The deadline to switch party affiliations before the primary was Oct. 6, 2023.

Once an undeclared voter casts a ballot for a particular party, they will automatically become a registered member of that party unless they fill out a card or sign a list to return to undeclared status before leaving the polling place.