As national Democrats in Washington, D.C. heard from state after state on why they should be among the first to vet the party's presidential nominee, one essential question was repeated: Exactly how diverse is your state?
Members of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws (RBC) committee were evaluating the states, and it's this panel that will end up deciding in early August whether to make a couple of changes to the order states vote in the nomination process or add a fifth state."
The last time the lineup was shuffled was in 2006. Fourteen states applied to be in the early window, and two early states (Nevada and South Carolina) were added. Since then, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have been the first four states to hold Democratic primaries.
The DNC decided to open up its early state review process after Iowa and New Hampshire were criticized for not being as diverse as some Democrats think the first states in the process should be.
"The two small states should not have such a disparate impact on who is going to be president, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan told CBS News. "They're great states, I have many friends from them, but they don't reflect the diversity of this country."
Sixteen states and Puerto Rico made their pitches to the committee this week. The committee will meet in July to make a decision on the lineup in August, before bringing it to a full DNC vote in September.
Many states had their top surrogates make their pitch: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan represented their state; U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan presented for New Hampshire; New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy led his state's pitch and Michigan was represented by the lineup of Dingell, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and a video narrated by Detroit Pistons basketball legend Isaiah Thomas.
And on the same days as their respective chambers were considering votes on gun legislation, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin came for Illinois' presentation on Thursday and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn made his pitch for South Carolina on Friday.
Both Iowa and New Hampshire defended their current slots in the schedule and argued that while there are limited pockets of demographic diversity in their state, other factors such as diversity in education and rural vs. urban working class areas should be taken into account.
"We cannot, as Democrats, build the party if we are not looking at diversity in its broadest sense, making sure that we are addressing that rural working class American, and we cannot win as a party if we don't tap into even further our diverse communities across the country," said Iowa Democratic party Chair Ross Wilburn after his state's presentation.
Nevada announced it's looking to leapfrog over Iowa and New Hampshire and be the first state in the primary process. Its representatives cited Nevada's ranking as the third-most demographically diverse state in the nation as a strong reason to take the top slot.
"We cannot allow our party to focus solely on tradition, at the expense of real representation," said Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy II.
Two midwestern states, Minnesota and Michigan, highlighted their higher level of demographic diversity in their pitches to potentially join or replace Iowa in the lineup. Members considered their pitches strong, but questioned whether they'd be able to get the Republican approval that would be needed to change their primary date.
While Michigan would have to to get the approval of the GOP-majority legislature, Minnesota just needs a green light from the state Republican Party.
"I wouldn't pretend to understand what the current Republican Party looks like, but there is a historical precedent that we have worked really closely together on. Especially voter turnout," Democratic Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota told CBS News. "Traditionally they have worked together. So, I think that'll hold true."
Dingell was optimistic but vague with the committee about exactly how talks with the Republican majority in Michigan's legislature have gone, but pointed to support from two former Michigan Republican party chairs.
"We've been having very good, strong conversations," she told the committee.
Texas and Georgia also highlighted their growing diversity, and predicted that early Democratic investment in their states would pay dividends for the party in the general election.
RBC members were receptive to evaluating different kinds of diversity beyond racial differences, which could help states like Iowa and New Hampshire. On Friday, New York member Leah Daughtry said that "every part of the electorate, including White people, need to see themselves in the early-state process as having a voice that is important and should be considered."
Iowa, in particular, has been under additional scrutiny after the 2020 Democratic caucuses resulted in technical issues with reporting and sharing results. In response, Democrats in the state have looked to overhaul their caucus process to have attendees fill and mail in their presidential preference cards before attending the caucus in person.
Some RBC members were confused about Iowa's proposed process and its relation to how delegates would be assigned. They also questioned whether it would be too close to a primary method, causing conflict with New Hampshire, whose state law requires it to be the first primary state in the nation.
"The DNC clearly has a preference toward primaries. We can't be a primary because we're constrained by Iowa law. So, we are trying to shift our state or party run process to make it as primary-like as possible without violating Iowa law, and we intend to be first," said the RBC's only Iowan member, Scott Brennan.
But access to the ballot box in general was also forefront on the mind for committee members, with many acknowledging the shift for Republican election officials to restrict access or question the legitimacy of the 2020 election results could impact a state's nomination process.
Ten of the 16 states that presented have elections for secretary of state this November.
Jim Roosevelt, chair of the RBC, often asked states who their top election official is and if that individual is an election denier. Several Republican candidates for secretary of state, such as Jim Marchant of Nevada, have parroted former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.
"In making our decision on what should be the early states, we need to have a well-run process. And a statewide election official, who has been an election denier in this past cycle, couldn't be counted on for that," Roosevelt told CBS News. "You can't count on them to follow the law for the primary process."
The effects of any change may not be fully evident in 2024, when the president is expected to run for reelection. In that case, a few states could cancel their primaries if not enough challengers qualify for the ballot.
"Everyone is paying more attention, I think partly because even though we have an incumbent president, some people think we may have an active primary season and partly because a lot of people think there is a chance to displace Iowa as number one." Roosevelt said.
Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.
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