How does the New Hampshire primary work?

After last week's chaotic Iowa caucuses, campaigns are looking to the Granite State for more clarity on the race.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

Tuesday marks the New Hampshire primary, the second Democratic contest of the 2020 presidential cycle.

After last week's chaotic Iowa caucuses, campaigns are looking to the Granite State for more clarity on the race.

Here's what you need to know about how the New Hampshire primary works:

What date is the primary?

Feb. 11, 2020.

Why then?

State law in New Hampshire requires that the secretary of state pick a date for the presidential primary that is at least a week ahead of any other "similar election."

Secretary of State Bill Gardner formally announced the Feb. 11 date back in November. The selection came after Gardner confirmed that no results of California's early voting — which started Feb. 3 — will be counted until the state's primary on Super Tuesday.

When do polls open?

Per state law, all polls must open no later than 11 a.m. ET and close no earlier than 7 p.m. ET. But different localities can decide to open polls earlier or keep them open later. The earliest NBC's Decision Desk may be able to make a projection of the winner is 8 pm ET.

Who can vote?

"Undeclared" voters may vote in either a state or a presidential primary. They have to choose a Democratic or a Republican ballot at their polling places. After choosing a ballot, voters will become registered members of that party unless they specifically fill out a form confirming that they want to return to "undeclared" status.

While "undeclared" voters can vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary, registered Republicans can't vote in the Democratic primary and vice versa.

The deadline to change party affiliation for the 2020 primary was Oct. 25, 2019.

Are there a lot of "undeclared" voters?

Yes. In fact, they outnumber both registered Democrats and registered Republicans. According to the secretary of state's office, there were 413,345 undeclared voters as of October, compared to 275,973 Democratic voters and 289,814 Republican voters.

What about early voting?

New Hampshire does not allow in-person early voting or no-excuse absentee voting.

Are other political parties in New Hampshire picking nominees?

Not at the moment. New Hampshire law states that an official political party can only exist in the state if, in the preceding general election, it received at least 4 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor or U.S. senator.

How do the delegates break down?

There are 24 pledged delegates up for grabs in New Hampshire, with nine more unpledged deletes (aka superdelegates).

The 24 pledged delegates are allocated proportionally by the primary results, but a candidate must meet a 15 percent threshold to receive delegates.

Here's a further breakdown within those 24 delegates:

  • There are 16 district level-delegates (eight in each of the state's two congressional districts). They are allocated in proportion to the percentage of the primary vote won in that district by each preference, except candidates falling below a 15 percent threshold do not get any delegates.
  • Within a district, if no candidate gets to 15 percent, the new threshold is half the percentage of the vote received in that district by the front-runner.
  • Eight other delegates (and two alternates) are allocated proportionally according to the statewide primary vote. The 15 percent threshold applies for those allocations, as well. If no presidential preference reaches 15 percent, the threshold will be half the percentage of the statewide vote received by the front-runner.

Will there be caucuses?

No. Unlike in Iowa, New Hampshire voters make their choices individually, largely on hand-marked paper ballots. Disabled voters also have the option to use an electronic device to vote in person, but few votes are expected to be cast that way.