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Democrats propose Feb. voting to begin 2016 race

  • Article by: THOMAS BEAUMONT
  • Associated Press
  • May 2, 2014 - 3:55 PM

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee's rulemaking body is recommending a 2016 presidential voting schedule that begins with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 and follows with voting that month in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Under that calendar, Iowa retains its first-to-vote status while New Hampshire continues to hold the nation's first primary. The full DNC is expected to decide on the details of the calendar in August.

The Democrats' rules and bylaws committee met Friday in Washington. Its proposed calendar sticks closely to the framework laid out by the Republican National Committee. The GOP plan allows for those four states to vote in February but doesn't specify dates.

Democrats recommended that the New Hampshire primary be held on Feb. 9, the Nevada caucuses no earlier than Feb. 20, and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 27. Other states would be allowed to hold their contests from March 1 through the second Tuesday in June.

The recommendation hardly carves in stone the 2016 schedule. In the past two presidential election cycles, the major parties have scheduled the early contests for February but then allowed them to take place in January after such states as Florida and Michigan violated the party's rules and moved up their voting.

"You never know what you're going to get into in the pressure of an election season," committee co-chairman James Roosevelt Jr. said.

The committee discussed allowing people to participate without being physically present in Iowa's caucuses, the precinct-level political meetings held on a winter evening. Nothing on the issue was decided.

The Iowa caucuses, which have launched presidential voting for more than 30 years and are operated by the parties rather than state election officials, have come under increasing criticism because they include only those who attend a specific meeting. Democrats in the state are investigating whether the state party could allow more people to participate, including voters stationed out of state with the military or confined to hospitals or nursing homes.

"Our goal is to increase participation but maintain the spirit of the caucuses," Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan said.

The Democratic caucuses require participants to form groups of candidate supporters. Supporters of candidates who receive less than 15 percent support in an individual precinct disperse, giving other supporters the chance to argue for their support.

In 2008, Democrat Hillary Clinton complained after finishing in third place that the rules kept people who work nights from attending, although attendance more than doubled the previous high mark. In 2012, Republicans first declared Mitt Romney a very narrow winner, only to say two weeks later that Rick Santorum had won.

© 2014 Star Tribune