WASHINGTON (AP) – In an attempt to satisfy complaints from minorities, Democrats moved toward adding Nevada and South Carolina in the early presidential voting lineup along with Iowa and New Hampshire to diversify the voters who select the party’s nominee.

They added Nevada caucuses the Saturday after Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, set for Jan. 14, but before the New Hampshire primary, set Jan. 22. A South Carolina primary was added a week after New Hampshire.

The Democrats did their utmost to satisfy everyone – to little avail.

New Hampshire officials are miffed about the intrusion on decades of tradition as the first primary. Michigan officials think more states should have been added. And veteran Democratic strategists grumbled about unintended consequences.

“In our attempt to make everybody happy, we make nobody happy, “said Democratic activist Janice Griffin. “And we lose elections.”

Members of the Democrats’ rules and bylaws committee are betting that giving minorities more of a voice will help win elections. The changes definitely jammed up the early voting.

“I have real reservations about the whole system,” said veteran party activist Harold Ickes, an ally of potential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton. “It is just nuts. We are going to have an eight-month, general election campaign.”

Former President Clinton, a half-dozen White House hopefuls and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch also have complained about the changes.

The full Democratic National Committee will have to approve during its August meeting in Chicago before the changes take effect.

The moves were praised by Alexis Herman, a co-chair of the rules panel, who said it was appropriate to make such changes “soon after the renewal of the Voting Rights Act” which protects the rights of minority voters. Along with choosing the two states allowed to go early before voting is open to all states, the rules panel considered whether to allow the voting to start Jan. 7 – which critics said was too close to the holidays and wouldn’t allow enough time for campaigning.

New Hampshire Democratic chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said starting Jan. 7 would have been more fair to early states and to candidates and would likely have made the changes more appealing to angry New Hampshire officials. “That’s just one more negative to consider,” she said.

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner will have to determine whether the Democrats’ actions comply with a state law requiring that the Granite State’s primary be scheduled a week or more before any “similar election.”

He could decide to move the New Hampshire primary earlier to protect its status.

Jim Roosevelt, a co-chair of the panel, said placing a caucus before New Hampshire does not violate the state’s law.

In a true caucus, voters attend lengthy meetings at a certain number of specified locations; such gatherings tend to attract party activists. Primaries are more like general elections, with a much broader voting population casting ballots at many polling places.

Blacks and Hispanics are important constituencies for the Democrats. Blacks made up 21 percent of the vote for Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and chose him over President Bush by a 9-to-1 margin, according to exit polls.

Hispanics made up 9 percent of the Democrats’ support and leaned toward Kerry. Republicans won the support of roughly four in 10 Hispanic voters in 2004 – their best showing yet.

Ten states plus the District of Columbia had applied for the openings: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.