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Dems alter '08 voting order for 'diversity'

New Hampshire objects to changes in nominating calendar

By Mark Preston
CNN

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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Nevada and South Carolina will join Iowa and New Hampshire as the kickoff states for the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating contest, under a plan approved Saturday by the Democratic National Committee.

The new calendar means Democrats will hold four nominating contests in January 2008, forcing the party's presidential hopefuls to expand their campaign efforts beyond the traditional proving grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire.

All other states will be allowed to hold caucuses and primaries beginning February 5.

The DNC approved the new calendar by a voice vote.

The calendar change was opposed by New Hampshire Democrats, who charge that it violates their state law by placing a similar presidential contest within the seven-day buffer zone that Granite State law requires.

And Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, warned that frontloading the calendar prevents Democrats from other states the opportunity in helping choose the party's presidential nominee.

"This is going to result in four states nominating our presidential candidate in 2008," Sullivan told CNN. "It makes Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina very important, and while I appreciate feeling made to be important, I don't think the voters of four states should make that decision."

Sullivan also suggested that Saturday's vote will not be the final say on the matter.

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner is charged with setting the state's primary date, and Sullivan said she expects him to do so in November 2007. Sullivan has acknowledged that she does not know what Gardner will eventually do, but the secretary of state has already stated he intends to enforce New Hampshire law.

"Right now the calendar is not set," Sullivan said. "What happened today is irrelevant to New Hampshire."

But supporters of the new plan said that placing Nevada and South Carolina in the early part of the calendar will ensure that more diverse voices are involved in helping choose the Democratic nominee.

Iowa and New Hampshire have large white populations, while 23 percent of Nevada's population is Hispanic, and blacks make up 29 percent of South Carolina's population.

"It covers a larger part of the country with greater diversity earlier on in the calendar where a candidate can show strength, a more cross sectional type strength, because of the diversity," Waring Howe Jr., a DNC member from South Carolina, told CNN. "Not just the racial but the geographic and economic diversity."

The calendar adopted by the DNC has Iowa holding the first contest, a caucus, on January 14. Nevada would follow with a caucus on January 19, the New Hampshire primary on January 22 and the South Carolina primary on January 29.

The DNC also approved a measure that would deny a presidential candidate delegates if that state did not honor this new calendar and the candidate continued to campaign in that state. Actions constituting a violation include making personal appearances, hiring campaign workers and buying advertising.

The Republican Party does not plan to alter its presidential primary calendar.

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