Here’s the case Maryland Democrats are making to host an early presidential primary

Published 6/24/2022 6:50 a.m. EDT, Updated 6/24/2022 11:00 a.m. EDT

Voting booths in a line.

The next time Americans vote for president in 2024, Maryland Democrats hope they’re early in line in the primaries. Maryland is one of several states vying for a chance to grab an early — and therefore influential — spot on the calendar.

“First, second, third, fourth, fifth — we just want to be part of the conversation,” Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis told national Democratic leaders on Thursday. “We can make a good contribution to the conversation if you allow us a seat at the table.”

The Democratic Party is considering rearranging the lineup of primaries for 2024, potentially bumping Iowa and New Hampshire from their coveted spots early on in the process.

Over the course of the day on Thursday, representatives from about a dozen states — plus Puerto Rico — made their cases before members of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

The committee is expected to pick five states for early primaries spread across different geographic regions. Maryland is competing against New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware for the right to hold an early primary in the northeastern region, said Brandon Stoneburg, a spokesman for the state party.

The decision is expected later this summer.

Here’s a breakdown of key points from Maryland’s pitch.

Maryland is the most racially diverse state on the East Coast

Democrats are painfully aware that the first-in-the-nation state of Iowa is predominately white and rural — not reflective of the party as a whole across the nation.

Maryland offers a chance for presidential candidates to make their case before a set of voters who are racially and culturally diverse, Lewis said in her presentation.

In addition to urban and suburban Democrats in Central Maryland, there are Democrats on the rural Eastern Shore and the mountains in Western Maryland, Lewis said. More than half of the state’s population is not white, according to 2020 Census data.

Lewis said committee members can look no further than the Democratic candidates for governor. All of the contending tickets have one or both candidates as people of color.

“That is exactly the look the Democratic Party should have,” Lewis said. “This is reflective of who we are as Marylanders.”

Democrats have long relied on black women to turn out to vote, and that’s represented in the leadership of the party, Lewis said, noting that she and the state party’s executive director, Eva Lewis, are both Black women.

“We do walk the walk and talk the talk,” she said. “This is the largest constituency in the Democratic Party and we are representative of it.”

Maryland’s media market is accessible

Presidential contenders will need to put ads on TV to reach early primary voters. While the Washington, D.C. market is expensive for TV advertising, the Baltimore market is less expensive.

Any “bleed” of TV ads being viewed by voters in other states will still be valuable, as neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania can factor in as swing states, Lewis said.

And local reporters across the state are eager to cover political news, Lewis said. She predicted candidates will have no trouble landing interviews on local news, which is known as “earned media.”

“The press will be so excited to have that kind of attention in Maryland,” she said.

Elections here are generally smooth

John P. McDonough, a former secretary of state, explained that Maryland has multiple options for voting, including traditional election day voting, early voting and vote-by-mail.

And by the time the 2024 election comes around, he predicted the Maryland General Assembly will have passed a law allowing local elections officials to confidentially tally vote-by-mail ballots that arrive early and release those results on election night. Such a bill was approved this year, but vetoed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maryland’s voting system — hand-filled paper ballots that are scanned — has the benefits of quickly tabulating results while still having a paper trail as backup, McDonough said.

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