December 2, 2020

Everything You Need To Know About The New Hampshire Primary

After the Iowa results meltdown, New Hampshire takes center stage Tuesday night. This election is run by the secretary of state’s office and not the state party. It’s also a more-straightforward primary (with a couple kinks we explain below) rather than a complicated, math-heavy caucus.

There is lots at stake, as New Hampshire has served to reinforce or reset the Democratic primary race over the last five decades. As always, be ready for surprises, especially because through the years, a third to half of voters have made up their minds in the last week.

Here are some key questions, things to watch and the stakes for the candidates:

Is New Hampshire a swing state?

First, let’s set the table. Yes, in a general election, New Hampshire is very competitive. It went Democratic in the 2016 election, but it was the closest of all states (by raw vote) — just 2,700 votes separated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and Trump’s team is closely watching and targeting it in 2020.

Why is New Hampshire first?

This question comes up repeatedly, because, like Iowa, New Hampshire is not a diverse state. It, too, is more than 90% white. In 2016, 93% of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters were white. It has been first for a very long time — 100 years this year actually.

Then, about 50 years ago, New Hampshire passed a law requiring it be first and gave sole power to the secretary of state to set the primary date. Bill Gardner is that secretary of state. He has been in the job about as long as the law has been on the books and has fought against efforts — Democratic and Republican — to move it.

When is the New Hampshire primary?

Polls open at 8 a.m. ET and close, in most places, at 7 p.m. ET. But there are 221 towns in New Hampshire, and they all set their own times. Some scarcely populated towns famously begin voting at midnight to gain attention.

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