What is New Hampshire actually voting on in the First in the Nation Primary?

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The New Hampshire Democratic Party is providing information on how to become a delegate on its website. Screenshot/Andrew Sylvia

On Feb. 11, New Hampshire voters head to the polls to cast their votes in the nation’s first primary, but many may not realize that they are actually voting for delegates to national party conventions.

New Hampshire’s two officially recognized parties have different routes on how they select those delegates. Here’s how it works.

Democratic Party

At the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, the New Hampshire Democratic Party will send 33 delegates and two alternates, selected through four separate methods, with a requirement for gender equality and an emphasis on diversity.

Any presidential candidates receiving at least 15 percent of the total vote in one of New Hampshire’s two congressional districts on Feb. 11 will receive up to eight delegates from that district: four males and four females.

The total amount of delegates each campaign receives is allocated by how many candidates pass the 15 percent threshold. So, if only one candidate gets more than 15 percent, they get all eight delegates, if two candidates get over the threshold, each gets four, and so on, with the delegates being allocated proportionally by percentage if there is an odd number of candidates getting past the threshold.

If a candidate receives more than 15 percent in one district, but not the other, they will only get delegates in one district.

Presidential campaigns will make a list of their proposed delegates following caucuses held by each presidential campaign in both districts on Saturday, Jan. 25.

The 16 congressional-level delegates will select five at-large delegates and the two alternates on April 25 at the New Hampshire Democratic Party office in Concord. These delegates can be any registered New Hampshire Democrat.

On April 25, the congressional level delegates will also select three “pledged local elected official” (PLEO) delegates. These delegates can be any elected official in the state excluding the governor or members of Congress.

The PLEO delegates, at-large delegates and district delegates are all “pledged,” meaning they are bound to vote for a specific candidate at the national convention until their candidate releases them from that obligation.

There are also nine “automatic” delegates who are not pledged to a particular candidate, commonly known as “superdelegates.”

There are nine in New Hampshire and these include New Hampshire’s Democratic members of Congress (Chris Pappas, Annie Kuster, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen), NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley, NHDP First Vice Chairman Martha Fuller Clark, and New Hampshire’s members on the Democratic National Committee (Kathy Sullivan, Joanne Dowdell and Billy Shaheen.)

These delegates are not allowed to vote on the first presidential ballot at the national convention.

Republican Party

The New Hampshire Republican Party will send 22 delegates to their national convention in Charlotte with an additional 20 alternates also selected.

All 22 delegates are pledged to the results of the Feb. 11 primary, with each candidate receiving 10 percent or more of the statewide vote allocated delegates proportionally to the candidate’s vote total.

The Republican National Committee gives each state 10 at-large delegates, three delegates per congressional district and three for party leaders. New Hampshire’s other six Republican delegates are “bonuses” for recent electoral successes.

The three party leaders are NHGOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek, New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey and New Hampshire Republican National Committeewoman Juliana Bergeron.

Governor Chris Sununu is also one of the 22 delegates, although he and the three party leaders are bound to the results of the Feb. 11 primary.

A full list of the delegate slate from each Republican candidate is available on the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website.  

About this Author


Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.