Joe Biden has proposed changing the 2024 Democrat primary calendar to give states with large black populations a “louder voice” in choosing the party’s candidate for president.
It would mean the end of the focus on Iowa, which is overwhelmingly white, and has been the first state to kick off the process and vote since 1976.
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee rules committee Mr Biden said the party should prioritise diversity as it selects its presidential nominee.
“For decades, black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process,” he wrote.
“We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognised their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”
States with high proportion of black voters key to Biden win
South Carolina, where 60 per cent of registered Democrats are black, voted fourth in 2020.
It was key to Mr Biden’s victory, resurrecting his chances after he suffered dismal results in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Mr Biden’s proposal would put South Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada. Georgia and Michigan would also move into the first five states to vote.
Both of those states also have a high proportion of black voters, and were critical to Mr Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 general election.
Mr Biden wrote his letter to the committee on personal stationary without the White House seal.
The party rules committee has gathered in Washington and is expected to vote soon on the order of states.
Democrat candidates traditionally spend months focusing on Iowa, visiting coffee shops and restaurants across the vast state.
Iowa holds caucuses, rather than a primary, which means voters must go to locations like church halls and schools on election day to openly show their support for a candidate.
Changes could be implemented in 2024
Mr Biden said caucuses were “restrictive and anti-worker” because they required voters “to spend significant amounts of time”.
In 2020 the results in Iowa were delayed for days amid a series of errors in the counting process.
The changes could be implemented in 2024 but, if Mr Biden seeks re-election and is unopposed, would be largely meaningless until 2028.
Mr Biden’s move was greeted with anger in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Maggie Hassan, a Democrat US Senator representing New Hampshire, said: “I strongly oppose the President’s deeply misguided proposal.”
The Republican National Committee has already decided to keep Iowa as the first contest in its 2024 presidential nomination process.
It came as Mr Biden on Friday night signed a law forcing rail unions to accept an unpopular pay deal, averting a possible strike that could have devastated the US economy.
The deal delivered wage increases but several unions had rejected it because it did not include paid sick leave.
Congress voted to enforce the deal and Mr Biden signed that into law.
Mr Biden said “It was tough for me but it was the right thing to do at the moment. [It] avoided what, without a doubt, would have been an economic catastrophe.”
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