Write-in campaign seeks win for Joe Biden in NH: What to know


President Joe Biden is skipping the New Hampshire primary. Sort of.  

Biden’s name will not appear on the state’s Democratic ballot because of a dispute over the date of the contest. However, many New Hampshire Democrats are planning to vote for the president anyway.  

A ragtag group of state party leaders have worked for months to organize a write-in campaign to ensure that Biden wins the first-in-the-nation primary. A loss by Biden − even after he decided not to compete in the state − could create an embarrassing narrative and lead to broad unease over his 2024 reelection chances.  

Here’s a look at how the Biden write-in effort started and why it matters.  

Why isn’t Biden on the ballot in New Hampshire?  

Last year, under Biden’s guidance, the Democratic National Committee reshuffled the primary calendar and put South Carolina at the front of the order. It said the goal was to elevate diverse voices early in the presidential nominating contest. 

However, New Hampshire is required by law to hold the first primary in the country and its Republican-run legislature declined to accommodate the DNC’s rule change. Secretary of State David Scanlan waited to set the date of the primary until the candidate filing deadline ended last fall to leave the door open for Biden. 

The president declined to participate in the state’s election, citing concerns that the national party would take away delegates from any candidate who participated in an unsanctioned contest.  

Scanlan later set the date of the race for Jan. 23 – a week and a half ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic primary.  

When did the write-in campaign begin? 

When the DNC officially changed its primary calendar last February, seasoned New Hampshire Democrats knew there would be trouble because of the state’s election law. Many were frustrated at Biden’s decision to strip the state of its historic place in presidential politics. 

As it became clear over the summer that Biden would not engage with the primary, party leaders in the state began floating the idea of a write-in campaign. At the time, Robert F. Kennedy was still running as a Democrat. Kathy Sullivan, former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, remembered thinking that Democrats could not let him win in the state.  

“To have Robert F. Kennedy Jr. win the New Hampshire primary, it would have been a bad day for President Biden,” Sullivan said. Kennedy later decided to run as a third-party candidate.

What does the write-in effort entail?  

There are two main groups supporting the Biden write-in effort.  

A grassroots group called Granite State Write-In has informally organized over 1,200 volunteers to vote for the president and convince their friends, family and acquaintances to do the same.  

With only two paid staffers, and roughly $50,000 in its war chest, the group has mainly focused on putting up yard signs and deploying volunteers to spread the word at local Democratic town committee meetings. 

The group also has organized a number of “visibility” events featuring national Democrats, such as Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, to spread the word the weekend before the primary.  

Sullivan also kick-started a super PAC, called Granite for America, in mid-November. The organization has sent seven mailers to likely Democratic voters encouraging them to vote for Biden and explaining how to do so. While it has run some digital ads, television spots haven’t been in the cards.

How do you vote for Biden in New Hampshire?

The actual process of voting for Biden in New Hampshire is fairly easy. The Democratic ballot will have 21 names on it, including the president’s leading challengers Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and self-help author Marianne Williamson.  

Below those names, there is an empty line that says “write-in.” Voters must fill in the oval on the line and legibly print Biden’s full name. The secretary of state’s office has said that as long as the “intent” of the name listed is clear, the vote will likely count for Biden. 

What are Biden’s chances?  

Biden is widely expected to win the New Hampshire primary. 

An overwhelming 64% of likely Democratic primary voters in a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey said they planned to back the president on Jan. 23, compared to 6% who said they supported Phillips and 2% who supported Williamson. 

But organizers of the write-in effort are setting low expectations for his margin of victory. 

Write-in efforts of this scale are not without precedent in American politics. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski won a similar effort in the 2010 general election after she was defeated in the Republican primary.  

“As I keep reminding folks, this is not easy,” Sullivan previously said. “It’s not the typical election and so it becomes a bit of a heavy lift, because you are having to encourage people to get out and that when they go to vote, his name will not be on the ballot.” 

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