CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s attorney general on Monday ordered national Democratic party leaders to stop calling the state’s unsanctioned presidential primary “meaningless,” saying doing so violates state law.
The cease-and-desist notice came three days after the co-chairs of the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee told New Hampshire party leaders to “educate the public that January 23rd is a non-binding presidential preference event and is meaningless.” In a letter to Chairman Ray Buckley, they also called the primary “detrimental” and said “non-compliant processes can disenfranchise and confuse voters.”
But Attorney General John Formella said it’s the DNC that is in danger of harming voters. Formella, appointed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, did not say whether he is considering criminal charges, but his office later said he hasn’t ruled it out. He released a statement saying the comments amount to an illegal attempt to deter voters from participating in the primary and cited state laws against criminal solicitation and voter suppression. The latter, a felony, makes it illegal to attempt to deter someone from voting based on fraudulent, deceptive or misleading information.
“Regardless of whether the DNC refuses to award delegates to the party’s national convention based on the results of the January 23, 2024, New Hampshire democratic Presidential Primary Election, this New Hampshire election is not “meaningless,’” Formella said. Statements to the contrary are false, deceptive and misleading.”
New Hampshire’s secretary of state scheduled the primary in accordance with a state law that requires both the Republican and Democratic primaries to be held at least seven days before any similar contest. But that put the state at odds with the DNC’s calendar, which starts with a primary in South Carolina on Feb. 3 followed by Nevada. Aimed at giving Black and other minority voters a larger, earlier role, the schedule also moves Michigan into the group of early states voting before Super Tuesday on March 5, when most of the rest of the country holds primaries.
President Joe Biden, who sought the changes, kept his name off the ballot in New Hampshire, though Democrats have organized a write-in campaign on his behalf.
Republicans will kick off the nominating process with the Iowa caucus on Monday. New Hampshire’s primary eight days later will be a crucial opportunity for GOP candidates to show they can remain competitive against former President Donald Trump, the early front-runner for their party’s presidential nomination.
A spokesperson for the DNC declined to comment Monday. Buckley, the New Hampshire chairman, released a statement reiterating that the secretary of state followed the law in picking the date.
“Well, it’s safe to say in New Hampshire, the DNC is less popular than the NY Yankees,” he said. “Nothing has changed, and we look forward to seeing a great Democratic voter turnout on January 23rd.”
Holly Ramer, The Associated Press