AP decision notes: What to expect in the NH primaries

FILE - A marker stands outside the Statehouse in Concord, N.H., Nov. 15, 2023, describing the history of the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. New Hampshire's attorney general Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, ordered national Democratic party leaders to stop calling the state’s unsanctioned presidential primary “meaningless,” saying do so violates state law. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer, File)

FILE - A marker stands outside the Statehouse in Concord, N.H., Nov. 15, 2023, describing the history of the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. New Hampshire's attorney general Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, ordered national Democratic party leaders to stop calling the state’s unsanctioned presidential primary “meaningless,” saying do so violates state law. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer, File) Holly Ramer


Associated Press

Published: 01-19-2024 10:33 AM

WASHINGTON — The race for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations will converge in New Hampshire on Tuesday in the first primary election of the season — though on the Democratic side, the contest may count only for bragging rights.

The Republican primary will test former President Donald Trump’s front-runner status in a state he carried by a comfortable margin in the 2016 primary but has a considerably more moderate electorate than the one that delivered him a big win in the Iowa caucuses.

It will also be a test for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who wants to establish herself as the main alternative to Trump. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who edged Haley for second place in Iowa, is now focusing his efforts on South Carolina, after two scheduled New Hampshire debates were canceled.

Trump has had a consistent lead in the polls, with Haley, a former South Carolina governor, appearing to be in the strongest position among his rivals.

In the Democratic primary, President Joe Bidenwon’t appear on the ballot, since the contest violates the national party rules he pushed for, but supporters have mounted a write-in campaign on his behalf. The Biden campaign has not endorsed the write-in effort. Among the Democratic candidates whose names will appear on the ballot are U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and 2020 candidate Marianne Williamson.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Tuesday:

Primary Night

The New Hampshire presidential primaries will be held on Tuesday. The last polls in the state close at 8 p.m. ET, although polls in most of the state close at 7 p.m. ET and some close at 7:30 p.m. ET. In tiny Dixville Notch, which has only a handful of residents, polls open at midnight ET and close a few minutes later once all voters have cast a ballot.


The Associated Press will provide coverage for both the Democratic and the Republican presidential primaries. The Republican primary ballot will list the names of 24 candidates, including DeSantis, Haley and Trump. The ballot also includes the names of candidates who have dropped out, such as Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson, Vivek Ramaswamy and others. The Democratic ballot will list the names of 21 candidates, including Phillips and Williamson. Biden will not be listed on the ballot.


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Registered party members may vote only in their party’s primary. In other words, registered Democrats may vote only in the Democratic primary, and registered Republicans may vote only in the Republican primary. Independent or unaffiliated voters may vote in either primary. New voters may register on primary day at a polling site, but the deadline to change party affiliation for voters who are already registered was in October. Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 by the November general election may vote in the primary.


For Republicans, statewide primary results will be used to determine how many of New Hampshire’s 22 Republican National Convention delegates each candidate has won. Delegates are allocated to candidates in proportion to their share of the statewide vote, although a candidate must receive at least 10% of the vote to qualify for delegates. Any unallocated delegates are awarded to the statewide winner. Unlike some other states, New Hampshire Republican delegates are not allocated by congressional district.

For Democrats, no delegates will be allocated based on the results of the primary, according to the Democratic National Committee, which governs the nomination process.


Trump won a competitive New Hampshire primary in 2016 with 35% of the vote, more than double the showing of his nearest competitor, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He did best in the state’s heavily Republican areas, outperforming Kasich by a nearly 4-1 ratio. Trump fared less well in the state’s heavily Democratic areas, although he still finished slightly ahead of Kasich in those parts of the state.

In Iowa, Haley performed best in the state’s more Democratic-friendly areas, but she finished with more votes than the former president in only one county. To be competitive against Trump in New Hampshire, she’ll surely need to beat Trump outright in the state’s Democratic strongholds. If Trump posts big margins in these areas, including in Concord and Portsmouth, he’s likely on his way to a decisive win statewide.

Many New Hampshire towns report all or nearly all of their votes at once. The Associated Press will analyze those early returns and compare them with past election results, which may help determine whether early returns are providing a clear indication of the winner.

The Democratic race is complicated by the Biden write-in factor. The AP will report vote results for the 21 candidates listed on the ballot, as well as for “Unprocessed write-in,” and once those ballots are sorted and tallied by name, for “Joe Biden write-in” or “Other write-in.”

The AP will analyze results from towns as they begin to report candidate-specific write-in totals to determine whether the Biden write-in effort has prevailed. The New Hampshire secretary of state has expressed optimism about local elections officials’ ability to tabulate and report write-in votes, but any delay in determining Biden’s share will slow how quickly the AP is able to declare a winner.

The AP will declare winners in both primaries, as well as a second-place determination in the Republican contest. The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

There is no automatic recount in New Hampshire presidential primaries, but any candidate who receives at least 9% of votes cast may request a recount for a fee. The fee is refunded if the person who requested it is declared the winner.


As of Dec. 28, 2023, there were about 873,000 registered voters in New Hampshire. Registered Republicans make up 31% of voters, compared with 30% for Democrats. Independents or unaffiliated voters comprise 39% of all voters.

In recent Democratic presidential primaries in New Hampshire, turnout was 43% of eligible voters — those who are registered as Democrats or who are unaffiliated — in 2020 and 41% in 2016. On the Republican side, turnout was 23% of eligible voters in 2020, when Trump was running for reelection, and 44% in 2016, when Trump first ran.

Pre-Election Day voting is not particularly popular in New Hampshire. In the 2020 primaries, ballots cast before Election Day made up only 7% of Democratic primary votes and 4% of Republican primary votes.


In the 2020 New Hampshire primary, the AP first reported results at 12:13 a.m. ET for the Democratic race and 12:14 a.m. ET for the Republican race, to reflect the state’s small handful of votes cast at midnight on primary morning. The primary night results were first reported at 7:32 p.m. ET for Republicans and 7:34 p.m. ET for Democrats.

Primary night tabulation ended at 1:12 a.m. ET for the Democratic contest with 93% of total votes counted and at 1:14 a.m. ET for Republicans with 92% of votes counted.

The Manchester and Concord areas tend to report results faster than the rest of the state. Vote reporting in the northern half of New Hampshire tends to trail that of other parts of the state.