Op-ed: Writing-in Our History in New Hampshire

(Kathleen Sullivan)

By Kathleen Sullivan

January 18, 2024

When the books on the 2024 election are written, there should be a chapter devoted to the efforts of the grassroots volunteers of the Granite State Write-In project. The tale of how a community of volunteers ran a campaign in a primary their national political party did not want.

President Joe Biden surprised New Hampshire when he requested the Democratic National Committee to change the nominating calendar. All reports indicated the DNC would keep the New Hampshire primary first. However, the day before a vote by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) to approve a nominating calendar, he asked the RBC to place South Carolina first.

The RBC knew that New Hampshire law requires the state’s presidential primary to be first. It would have made sense for the RBC to respectfully ask for a time out to consider all the consequences, including what would happen when New Hampshire refused to change the law. They did not.

The RBC should have recognized that nature abhors a vacuum. They should have predicted that in addition to some underfunded unknown candidates. There was the real possibility one or more candidates with name recognition or financial resources would seek to take advantage of the situation. Why not kickstart a challenge to President Biden if he chose not to run in New Hampshire?

Democratic leaders in the Granite State knew these possible consequences. A victory by a fringe candidate would be embarrassing for the state and the President. An unchallenged campaign by a well-financed candidate would be bad for Biden’s reelection – and with the likelihood of Donald Trump’s Republican nomination, that could be disastrous for the country. Either scenario was unacceptable.

Over the summer and into the fall of 2023, activists, veterans of prior campaigns, and elected officials began having conversations. Should there be a write-in effort? How would it work, with no candidate campaigning, no support from the candidate’s campaign, and no help from a state party organization bound to be neutral? Did anyone want to do it, given how upset everyone was with the DNC’s decision to displace New Hampshire?

But the overriding factor was that it was important for Joe Biden to have a significant showing in the New Hampshire primary, no matter the frustration and anger over the DNC calendar. If the DNC did not like Granite Staters taking matters into their own hands, well, what could they do that they had not already done?

And so started the campaign to write in Joe Biden on the primary ballot. It had two primary goals: to have a New Hampshire Democratic Party presidential primary that received national attention despite the DNC, and that Joe Biden receive a significant sign of support from New Hampshire Democratic voters.

The first unofficial volunteer action consisted of about six people deciding to attend the state party convention in September, wearing recycled 2020 t-shirts and carrying clipboards, asking people if they would support a write-in for the President. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In a matter of weeks, volunteers put together a website, and some 1,200 people signed up. Discussions took place with the four members of the congressional delegation. A committee named Granite State Write-In was filed with the FEC. Teams of activists took on the jobs usually done by paid staff, scheduling appearances by volunteer “talkers” around the state, organizing local activities, and encouraging letters to the editor. Meetings were held with state and local election officials to discuss potential election-day issues. #WriteinBiden became ubiquitous on social media. 

National media outlets started calling and writing about the effort. Activists from outside the state asked how they could help. A flurry of national figures came to New Hampshire to support the write-in.

There was more activity taking place to support Joe Biden than anywhere else in the country.

We will find out on January 23 if the goal of turning out a significant showing of Biden supporters is met. The polls look good, but it is a heavy lift to win a write-in campaign. But no matter the results, an organization is now in place to build momentum for the November election.

As for the other goal, keeping the New Hampshire Democratic primary part of the presidential primary story despite the DNC? Met and exceeded.




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