Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Joe Biden Won't Be on the NH Democratic Ballot -- But 21 Names Will Be

Created: 16 January, 2024
Updated: 24 January, 2024
4 min read

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash


The New Hampshire presidential primaries are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, January 23. As it is the first-in-the-nation primary it garners substantial media attention. However, the most unique thing about this year's primary is getting no coverage from mainstream news outlets.

A Presidential Primary Without the Incumbent President

What many voters outside the Granite State may not know is that President Joe Biden will not be on the Democratic ballot. But 21 names will be -- including recognizable public figures like US Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and author Marianne Williamson. 

The reason the incumbent president's name will not be on the ballot is because the DNC found New Hampshire to be non-compliant to its rules; specifically, the party's schedule change to make South Carolina the first-in-the-nation primary.

The DNC's schedule change for the early caucus and primary states conflicted with New Hampshire law, which requires the state to have the first taxpayer-funded and publicly administered primaries each presidential election cycle. This could not be changed.

Regardless, the national party informed state Democrats that the primary results will not determine delegate allocation, and their message to voters is that their choices in the 2024 primary process are "meaningless."

The actions by the DNC were rebuked by state officials. New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Brendan O’Donnell filed a cease-and-desist against the DNC, claiming that party leaders had violated the state's voter suppression laws by intentionally discouraging voter participation.

This Goes Beyond a Single Party or Its Members

Since the DNC didn't get its way, it determined that voters in New Hampshire don't matter. This doesn't just affect state Democrats, but the nearly 40% of voters who are registered "undecided" as well.

New Hampshire's primary rules can best be described as semi-closed. Party members can only participate in their party's primary elections. Registered "undecided" voters can choose a party ballot when they go to the polls on primary election day.

Their registration changes to the party they choose when they cast their primary ballot. However, they can fill out a card or sign a list before leaving their polling location to change their registration back to "undecided."

Many of these voters want to be able to cast a ballot for their preferred presidential candidate, but the message sent to them is not only do they have to do extra to vote, but the parties -- both the RNC and DNC -- decide if their vote even matters. 

The New Hampshire Primaries Are Still Happening

The New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary is going to take place on January 23 whether the DNC wants it or not, which is why contenders to the president continue their get-out-the-vote efforts.

Recent polling shows that Biden has commanding support in the state, but the latest numbers put out by American Research Group show US Rep Dean Phillips close to 30% support among survey takers as of January 15.  

This is noteworthy because every presidential primary is a preference election, and they all have the ability to send a message whether or not the DNC or RNC choose to accept the results, which they could choose to ignore in any state.

Since New Hampshire is the first primary state in the presidential election cycle, more eyes will be on the results -- and the outcome can influence public perception nationwide.

If a contender to a sitting president gets 30% of the vote in an early primary state like New Hampshire or wins because the incumbent is not on the ballot, the outcome will get people talking -- and this is not lost on party officials.

Prominent New Hampshire Democrats have urged party members to write in Joe Biden's name on primary election day, including former party chair Kathy Sullivan, who runs the super PAC spearheading the write-in campaign.

It's an unprecedented situation to have a write-in campaign for a sitting president in one of the most consequential primary contests. But this situation is a product of a system in which parties exert their authority on elections.

Biden is not on the ballot in New Hampshire because he did not file to run in the state. He didn't file to run because the state did not comply with the party's rules and the DNC stripped primary voters of any say in delegate selection.

But now party leaders are asking the same voters they spurned and said didn't matter to vote for the man who directed his party to change the Democratic primary schedule in the first place. 

No matter what happens on January 23, voters will witness something unlike anything seen in modern US elections and is something that can only happen in the American electoral system.