Biden, absent from the NH primary ballot, could benefit from write-in efforts

1:09In this Dec. 9, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Rochester, New Hampshire.Scott Eisen/Getty Images, FILE

President Joe Biden will not be on the ballot in New Hampshire, the first primary election of the 2024 cycle, but Democrats from the state say there is a path forward — though a challenging one — for him to still clinch their contest.

Individual Democrats from the Granite State, without the help of their national or state parties, are organizing write-in efforts to get those around the state to still cast votes for the Democratic incumbent.

But they're doing so begrudgingly. After months of refusing to come into compliance with Democratic National Committee calendar guidelines, Biden's campaign wrote in a letter to New Hampshire Democrats earlier this week informing them that the president would not be filing in their primary, marking another blow to the state's standing within the early nominating process.

In this Dec. 9, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Rochester, New Hampshire.Scott Eisen/Getty Images, FILE

The president "is obligated as a Democratic candidate for President to comply with the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2024 Democratic National Convention," the letter, obtained by ABC News, said while noting he "looks forward to having his name on New Hampshire's general election ballot."

The first insult, in the eyes of some New Hampshire Democrats, came when the DNC approved in February a 2024 early nominating schedule that begins in South Carolina — the state that jump-started Biden's campaign in 2020 — and moves New Hampshire to vote concurrently with Nevada as the second primary state in the nation. New Hampshire Democrats have resisted the changes, maintaining that the restructuring breaches state law that asserts New Hampshire must be the first primary in the nation.

"[The write in efforts] has nothing to do with the DNC. It has nothing to do with the Biden campaign, because frankly, we're all still mad," said Kathy Sullivan, the former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, who has been one of the leaders of a robust campaign to organize write-in efforts.

In this April 20, 2023, file photo, Rep. Dean Phillips walks down the House steps after the last votes of the week in the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images, FILE

"But despite that, we also are aware that, you know, it's critically important that Joe Biden be elected next year. … The best way of handling our anger is to say, 'We're gonna vote anyway, despite what the DNC did. And we're going to write in President Biden in because he's our president [and] we think he's done a great job.'"

The grassroots write-in efforts for Biden are still in their early stages, according to Sullivan, who said that the initiative — while doable — will certainly be a "heavy lift."

So far, the group of well-sourced, veteran New Hampshire residents embarking on the sort of education campaign around the state is made up of people who have worked on presidential, senatorial and other campaigns, county chairs, local officials, young activists and more.

"We've got some great people working on this," Sullivan said.

The group has been scrambling to figure out the logistics of writing in a candidate while remaining in compliance with state and federal election laws.

Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democrats' chair, said that over 200 of their delegates signed up to be part of the efforts.

"It's a pretty, pretty extensive ground game," he said.

Sullivan declined to give a number of participating volunteers but said it was "a lot." The group plans to have a formal announcement about its efforts in the coming days.

"Kathy and the others involved in this effort are very capable and experienced in NH Primary politics. The president has many friends and supporters here and I consider myself one of them," said Terry Shumaker, a former ambassador who co-chaired President Bill Clinton's New Hampshire campaigns, adding that Biden will likely win the New Hampshire primary "because he has done a great job in difficult times — and this write-in effort will undoubtedly increase his margin."

New Hampshire Democrats have expressed willingness to write in Biden's name despite their disappointment that he won't be appearing on their primary ballots.

"Our first-in-the-nation primary is a great thing for candidates and for presidents, but I'll be writing in President Biden because he is the one that is going to defeat Donald Trump in November," said Alan Raff of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

The deadline to file in New Hampshire's primary election was Friday. Among the Democrats on the ballot will be two long shot candidates: author and speaker Marianne Williamson and Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who filed and announced his candidacy in the state just hours before the cutoff.


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