LAS VEGAS — Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday signed a law that would make Nevada the first state to vote in the 2024 presidential primary contests, bumping Iowa and New Hampshire from their leadoff spots.
Signing the law is a gamble.
It’s likely to set off maneuvering by other states, especially Iowa and New Hampshire, to move up their contests. The national political parties would need to agree to changes in the calendar, or state parties could risk losing their delegates at presidential nominating conventions.
The Democratic National Committee has not yet signaled whether it would support the calendar shake-up and isn’t expected to start writing rules for its nominating process until next year. Republicans in four early presidential nominating states this week all jointly opposed the move, saying they’re committed to preserving the historic schedule.
Democrats in Nevada, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, launched the push this year to boost their state after the 2020 primary contest left members of the party questioning the process. They noted Iowa’s problem-plagued caucuses and the fact that the two traditional early states are overwhelmingly white, unlike Nevada.
The new law changes Nevada’s contest from a party-run, in-person caucus meeting to a government-run primary election. Democrats nationally started shifting away from caucuses to primaries before 2020, citing the difficulty of attending an in-person meeting and the fiddly math involved to determine who wins the most delegates.
The law will require the presidential primary to be held on the first Tuesday in February in a presidential election year.
“Nevada represents a diverse constituency that presidential candidates need to talk to. It is not just for us. It is for candidates to vet their issues and communicate with the kind of communities that they’re going to be asking to vote for them in the national presidential election,” Jason Frierson, the Nevada speaker of the House, said Friday at a bill signing ceremony in Las Vegas.
Frierson said he’s confident Nevada can make its case and persuade both national parties to let it go first.
Iowa and New Hampshire, however, have signaled they’re willing to fight to protect their status.