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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth prepares for the 2024 New Hampshire presidential primary

Amid confusion over New Hampshire’s primary status, student and community organizations work to ensure voter participation.

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On Jan. 23, New Hampshire will hold the first primary in the 2024 presidential election. As the primary approaches, the Dartmouth Votes coalition — which consists of Dartmouth Student Government, Dartmouth Civics, Dartmouth’s Office of Student Life and the Town of Hanover — continues its efforts to mobilize students to vote. Dartmouth Votes has coordinated registration drives, promoted voter education and made voting accessible on election day, according to Assistant Dean for Student Life Edward McKenna.

“Dartmouth Votes seeks partnerships with student groups and campus offices to help support student civic engagement,” McKenna said. “We work closely together, but we also try to involve other campus partners.”

Recent events organized by Dartmouth Votes include a voter registration drive held on Jan. 8.

The drive was staffed by Hanover’s Supervisors of the Checklist — Aileen Chaltain, Patricia Dewhirst and Alison Gorman — who guided students through the voter registration process. According to Chaltain, they were able to register about 40 students to vote in New Hampshire during the event. 

Over the last few months, officials from the Town of Hanover have been in contact with the College through Dartmouth Votes to set up registration drives before the primary, Chaltain said. The Town of Hanover will allow voters to register to vote until 10 days before the election, which is referred to as the “blackout date.” This time, the “blackout date” falls on Jan. 13. 

“We were in contact with the College throughout the fall about the possibility of having a drive before the primary,” Chaltain said. “We wanted to visit before the blackout date.” 

Students who attended the drive had the opportunity to view sample ballots for both the Democratic and Republican primaries, according to Dartmouth Civics co-president Bea Burack ’25.

“We provided sample ballots so that students could look through all of the names they can vote for,” Burack said. “We try to help students show up to the polls ready and confident.”

Dartmouth Civics was founded last winter to provide students with nonpartisan information about voting, according to Burack. To prepare students for the primary, members set up tables in the Collis Center each week, where they ask passing students if they have a plan to vote. 

“At these sessions, we pass out information about what’'s going on with the election, how they can vote and any other information they need,” Burack said. “We want to make voting as easy as possible.” 

Burack noted that there is a “good mix” of students that register to vote in New Hampshire instead of their home state, and vice versa. 

“We don’t encourage anyone to vote in New Hampshire versus their home state,” Burack said. “We just want people to vote in the place where it feels right.”

Preparation for the primary comes after months of debate over New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status, which spurred questions over when the primary would be held

Government professor and state legislator Russ Muirhead, D-Grafton 12, explained that the controversy arose when the Democratic Party, led by President Joe Biden, called for New Hampshire’s primary to be pushed back in order to give South Carolina first-in-the-nation status. Muirhead pointed to two reasons for Biden’s decision.

“One was that Biden didn’t want to subject himself to the test of retail campaigning in New Hampshire,” Muirhead said. “Second, he argued that the larger African American constituency in South Carolina made it a more appropriate choice.”

Retail campaigning refers to direct contact with voters and typically involves rallies, town halls and other in-person campaign events. 

Ultimately, New Hampshire decided to not move back the primary, prompting President Biden to remove his name from the Democratic ballot, which could hurt his chances in the primary, according to Muirhead. 

“Trying to get people to write in his name is a bit of a heavy lift,” Muirhead said. “It would be a lot easier if he could just put his name on the ballot — like most people do who are running for president.”

Additionally, Muirhead explained that New Hampshire’s independents may be more likely to participate in the Republican primary this year because it is more competitive than the Democratic race. 

“Independents may pull the Republican primary to the center, which may benefit Nikki Haley,” Muirhead said.

Muirhead said he hopes Dartmouth students register to vote and participate in the primary.

“I really encourage Dartmouth students, whether they think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans, or neither, to vote on January 23,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of fun.”