What would it take for either party to finally step up and challenge New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary status? We’ve finally found out. Turns out that all they needed to do was pass a voter ID law and someone would come along and suggest they lose that seemingly eternal privilege.

And, Ladies and Gentlemen, that person is none other than Howard Dean. (Daily Beast)

The former chair of the Democratic National Committee said on Monday that his party could level the harshest of punishments on New Hampshire if its secretary of state doesn’t back away from efforts that could restrict voter participation.

Howard Dean, who ran the DNC from 2006 to 2008, argued that the Granite State could be stripped of its “first-in-the-nation” primary status and, potentially, have its presidential delegates removed.

“A state with voter suppression ought not to be honored by the Democratic Party by having the first-in-the-nation primary, period,” Dean said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “If they choose to hold their primary [before anyone else], you can strip the state of any delegates so that no delegates are awarded and you can sanction candidates who are running there.”

While such ramblings may give hope to those who would like to see some variety in the primary schedule (or a new system altogether), there’s reason to believe that this is all just bluster to generate a few headlines. First of all, it’s an easy threat to make, but nobody in the Granite State from either party would actually pull the trigger and give up that gem they’ve been clutching for so long. And second, most of the legislation they were objecting to was just blocked by the state supreme court anyway. (Politico)

New Hampshire’s Supreme Court has blocked recent changes to the state’s voting laws that would have exposed some first-time voters to a fine or jail time if they failed to submit residence paperwork within 10 days of registering.

New Hampshire Supreme Court Presiding Justice Charles Temple granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday against part of the law signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in July and known as State Bill 3.

Under the new legislation, individuals registering in the 30 days before an election or on the same day as an election — as New Hampshire allows — can register by promising to bring documents proving their residence to local officials within 10 days or 30 days in smaller towns.

It’s worth noting that there really isn’t much the DNC could do to stop New Hampshire from going first, though they could eliminate some or all of their delegates at the convention. (Which works out to about the same thing, really.) But it would be a shockwave through the body politic if it happened.

The underlying question here is this voter registration law, which is not really so much of a voter ID law as a proof of residency law. It was somewhat problematic from the beginning because it raised questions of whether or not newly arriving students or military members would be able to vote. The arguments in favor of it were indeed troubling, however. If, as has been claimed, a majority of the people who registered at the last minute using out of state ID never went on to register a vehicle or get an in-state driver’s license, that certainly sounds like somebody was up to no good. Opponents of the law are arguing that, “a person can be based in New Hampshire for the purposes of voting while having an out-of-state driver’s license.”

What does that mean, precisely? On the one hand it sounds as if they might be saying that you can live in New Hampshire but keep an out of state driver’s license. That would be odd based on most of the places I’ve lived, but I suppose that should be left up to the state. But the other possibility is that they mean “based in New Hampshire” only for voting while actually living, working and driving in another state. I don’t see how that could be allowed to stand. You vote where you live, not where you choose to fill out a form.

In any event, the hold put on the law is a temporary one so there should be more guidance offered when the full court hears the case. Until then I’m just going to assume that New Hampshire will come up with a reason they need to keep voting first in the primaries no matter how it goes.