The 2024 New Hampshire primary is underway as voters head to the polls. Here’s what to know.

Manchester, New Hampshire — For more than 100 years, New Hampshire has traditionally held the first presidential primary election in the country, a longtime point of pride for the small New England state. Since 1975, the state has had a law requiring that it be held at least a week before any other primary nominating contest. 

Voters in the Granite State are heading to the polls Tuesday to continue that tradition, at least on the Republican side. There are 22 delegates at stake in the GOP race and the results could go a long way toward determining the ultimate nominee. Former President Donald Trump is hoping to deal a knockout blow to Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and his sole remaining challenger. Haley is hoping for a strong finish that can fuel her campaign in the weeks ahead.

The Republican field winnowed on Sunday when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out and made it a two-person race. DeSantis endorsed Trump’s bid for the nomination, but it remained unclear what effect his decision to bow out would have on the outcome.

On the Democratic side, there won’t be any delegates at stake, and President Biden will not appear on the ballot. The Democratic National Committee punished the state for its decision to maintain its first-in-the-nation status, since the party wanted South Carolina to go first in the 2024 Democratic cycle. The president’s reelection campaign has instead urged Democrats to write in Mr. Biden’s name.

Here’s what to know about Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary:

Voting times

The hours of polling places vary in New Hampshire, but most open between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. ET.  Most polling sites in New Hampshire close at 7 p.m. ET but some are open until 8 p.m. ET. 

Voters in the tiny community of Dixville Notch, which has just a few residents, were first to cast their ballots, at midnight — a tradition that began in 1960. This year, six votes were cast and all six went to Haley. Dixville Notch polls close just a few minutes after they open, once all its voters have cast their ballots. 

State of play in the Granite State

New Hampshire’s commitment to keep its “first-in-the-nation” primary status intact was not without controversy in recent months, but the Granite State finds itself voting at a critical juncture of this unique primary season.

After winning the Iowa caucuses by a historic margin of 30 points, Trump is looking to New Hampshire, the state that first propelled him toward the GOP nomination in 2016, to deliver him victory again. 

Trump supporters wait in line outside the Rochester Opera House ahead of a campaign rally on Jan. 21, 2024 in Rochester, New Hampshire. 

/ Getty Images

New Hampshire voters have selected the eventual GOP nominee in the last three competitive cycles: 2008, 2012 and 2016.

In a CBS News poll in New Hampshire released in Dec. 2023, Trump still held a double-digit lead over Haley, with 44% support among likely GOP primary voters. However, that polling was conducted before DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out. 

Even with Trump’s dominance in the Iowa caucuses, Haley urged that the contest isn’t over after the two early states.

“This is not a coronation. This is an election,” Haley told CBS News. “You have Iowa, you have New Hampshire, you have South Carolina, you have Super Tuesday. You can’t just have one or two states decide this. You’ve gotta allow a lot of the country to decide this.”

Is New Hampshire an “open” or “closed” primary?

New Hampshire’s primary system is “open,” meaning that undeclared voters, who make up more than 39% of registered voters in the state, can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary on Election Day. That undeclared voting bloc is critical for Haley, who must sway both conservative and undeclared voters away from Trump. The state’s registered Democratic and Republican voters each make up about 30% each of the voting demographic.

This year’s primary could deliver record turnout, according to New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan. Scanlan predicted that potentially 322,000 Granite State Republicans could participate in the GOP primary, with about 88,000 Democrats participating in the Democratic primary. 

By law, undeclared residents may vote in New Hampshire’s GOP primary, along with Republican voters. Registered voters may only vote in one party’s primary, and the deadline to switch party registration expired in early October.

Of the state’s more than 873,000 registered voters, just 3,542 voters changed their registration from Democrat to undeclared before the state’s Oct. 6 deadline, and just 408 Democrats changed their registration to Republican.

According to the secretary of state’s office, 21 Democrats submitted the necessary paperwork and payment to appear on the ballot, including Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, and Marianne Williamson, who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Twenty-four Republicans filed for the New Hampshire GOP nomination, including all of the major candidates. Several — like former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — suspended their campaigns before votes were cast. 

Why isn’t President Biden on the ballot? 

While the Republican National Committee continues to embrace New Hampshire as the first primary state, the Democratic National Committee last year approved a new early primary schedule, supported by Mr. Biden, to move South Carolina to the front of the line. The move upended the traditional Iowa caucuses-to-New Hampshire early primary slate that had been in place for over 50 years, stripping New Hampshire of its esteemed “first-in-the-nation” primary status.

New Hampshire Republicans in control of the state government, and state Democrats, disagreed with the DNC’s scheduling change and refused to change state law, willing to risk potential consequences down the line.

As a result, Mr. Biden’s reelection campaign informed New Hampshire Democrats in late October that Mr. Biden would not be filing to appear on the state’s primary ballot — the first sitting president to not appear on the state’s primary ballot.

Mr. Biden, who can still win the unofficial primary through write-in votes, has not held a campaign event in New Hampshire since announcing his reelection bid. He placed fifth in New Hampshire in the 2020 Democratic primary.

However, that write-in challenge also opened the door to primary challengers within the Democratic Party. 

Phillips, who launched a long-shot primary challenge against Mr. Biden in late October, filed to appear on the state’s primary ballot. He sees Mr. Biden’s snub of the Granite State as an opportunity to make inroads among New Hampshire voters. 

Phillips’ polling numbers continue to hover around the 20% support mark, something he told CBS News would be a “great accomplishment” and will “propel” his campaign after New Hampshire.

What are Granite Staters saying? 

Leading up to the primary, CBS News spoke with several New Hampshirites who, like many Americans, are frustrated with the general state of division in the country, and feel an overall disenfranchisement and skepticism about what they have seen and heard from the White House and Congress.

Undeclared voter Susan Lawless said she was unhappy with both parties’ candidates for the White House in November. 

“Everything’s a mess, I know what I don’t want,” Lawless said. “I don’t think we have really good candidates in general and it’s kind of choosing the prettiest horse in the glue factory, and the horses kind of suck.”

Ralph Lewis, a Concord, New Hampshire resident, said he felt Nikki Haley was the best choice to unify America. 

“I think she’ll bring the country together,” Lewis, a registered Republican, said. “The country’s way too divided and I really think she can do it.”

Lewis and other registered Republicans said they are fans of Trump’s policies, but felt like his legal issues, or at least the perception of Trump being targeted by liberals, was a distraction.

“He has too much baggage. He’s not going to be able to do what he did his first term… because he is going to be in court all of the time,” Lewis said.

“I absolutely agree with all of his policies, I think chaos follows him wherever he goes and I think that would keep him from being effective,” said Brenda Bell of Hennicker.

Bruce Gurley of Derry, a registered Republican, said that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a breaking point for him with the former president.

“I voted for Trump twice, and I supported him for a long time but he’s just — he’s a selfish, narcissistic person. And I’ve seen him for what he is, it’s too bad,” Gurley said. “A lot of his policy has been good, that I was a big supporter of, but I can’t support him anymore.”

But many Trump supporters in New Hampshire are not bothered by the ongoing legal issues and the dozens of criminal charges he faces.

“It looks like every single time he’s in court, it’s a lot of baloney. It’s a lot of bogus hogwash,” Sherry Carrigan said while she was waiting in line to enter a Trump rally in Portsmouth last week. “I think it’s sensational, for, you know, the anti-Trump movement to latch onto something, but it’s really, as far as I’m concerned, a nonevent.”

Gurley added he was not enthused by a potential 2020 rematch between Trump and Mr. Biden.

“If it came down to Trump and Biden, I’d write in Mickey Mouse,” Gurley said.

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