New Hampshire Republican: Nevada primary plan violates Granite state law

A polling worker holds the curtain to a voting both open for a voter during the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Harriet Boylan heads into a voting booth to cast her vote in the New Hampshire presidential primary on January 8, 2008.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Adding more uncertainty to the already uncertain 2012 primary calendar, the New Hampshire Secretary of State yesterday declared that the plans for the Nevada GOP caucus violates Granite state law.

He decided that the caucus is a "similar election" under New Hampshire state law -- meaning that the Nevada Republican Party's plan to hold its caucus four days after the New Hampshire primary violates the clause in New Hampshire state law that its primary occur at least a week before another election.

"I don't know the date of the New Hampshire primary," said New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, calling into the Nevada political talk show "Face to Face."

He said the New Hampshire law goes back to 1975 and he declared that he will wait until Nevada sets its date before selecting the date for the New Hampshire primary. "I have to wait," he said. New Hampshire historically is the nation's first primary, a role it takes very seriously.

The Nevada Republican party had previously stated that its caucus would be held the Saturday after whatever date New Hampshire chose.

"Because the date of Nevada's caucus is, by rule, four days after New Hampshire's, we will move Nevada's first-in-the-West caucus if the New Hampshire GOP moves theirs," said Nevada Republican Party Chair Amy Tarkanian in an earlier statement.

"I do believe" that the two states' events would be at least a week apart when all is said and done, Gardner said. When the schedule gets settled is now anyone's guess.

Gardner said in previous years he's waited until the third week of December to set the date.

"It is a possibility that the primary could be this year, before the end of this year, if need be," he said.

Holding the primary in 2011 is only a possibility because of the move by Florida last week to holds its primary on January 31, 2012, leapfrogging the schedule pushed by the Republican National Committee to have only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina occur in February of 2012, with other states not holding most contests until March or April.

But even the threat of losing half of their delegates at the Tampa Republican convention did not deter states from jumping the calendar to get the biggest role, and therefore the most attention, in the nomination process they could get.

After Florida's move, South Carolina announced it will hold its primary on January 21. That suggests that Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada would all occur in the first three weeks of January, a schedule similar to 2008, when the first event, the Iowa Caucus, was held on January 3rd.

The hope was this year that the contests would start later to avoid such an early start. But the move from Florida, and the subsequent jockeying, has made campaigning through the Christmas and New Year's holidays all but a certainty.

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.