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New Hampshire hosts the nation's first presidential primary next week

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Here in the U.S., all eyes are on New Hampshire, which will host the nation's first presidential primaries on Tuesday. It's a role it's played and relished in for more than a hundred years. Republican presidential candidates are holding rallies across the state trying to convince the last undecided voters. Polls predict a closer contest than Iowa between Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

On the Democratic side, New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status has come under threat after the Democratic National Committee decided it wants more diverse states to vote earlier in the primary calendar. And last February, it moved South Carolina ahead of New Hampshire on that calendar. Now, for more insight on the upcoming primaries, I'm joined now by Republican David Scanlan. He's New Hampshire's secretary of state, the top election official. Secretary, so what can voters expect when they head to the polls on Tuesday?

DAVID SCANLAN: Well, New Hampshire voters are used to this. And right now, there is a lot of enthusiasm, certainly on the Republican side, for the many candidates whose names appear on the ballot. There's also enthusiasm on the Democratic side, where there is a pretty aggressive write-in campaign being run for President Biden, who chose not to put his name on the New Hampshire primary ballot. But that aside, there are still 21 names of candidates who have signed up to run for president as a Democrat.

MARTÍNEZ: Twenty-one names. OK, now going back to Donald Trump and the Republican race, Donald Trump continues to claim that the 2020 election was stolen. We should remind listeners, no evidence of that, zero evidence of that. But, secretary, what are you doing to make sure your primaries are safe and secure?

SCANLAN: Well, our elections are run by the local election officials. There are 309 polling places in New Hampshire. They are run by the friends and neighbors of the voters, people that live in the community. And those are individuals that have trust, and their neighbors believe that there's a lot of integrity there. So it's a grassroots effort. My administration is promoting transparency in the polling place. There should be no secrets other than how a person voted. And then the other part is educating the voting population that goes through the polling place, making sure that they understand the many checks and balances that are at play in voting. I think, for the most part, New Hampshire voters have faith and confidence in our election process.

MARTÍNEZ: How confident are you that we'll have results maybe by that night?

SCANLAN: Very confident. Yeah, there's no question that New Hampshire has a long history of doing this in a very efficient and fair and accurate way, and this election will be no different. We will have results before the end of the night.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, we mentioned that the Democratic National Committee wanted to move the New Hampshire primary to a later date. New Hampshire refused. New Hampshire's a largely white rural state. Why is it important, secretary, for you and other state officials that New Hampshire always goes first?

SCANLAN: Well, we would acknowledge that racial diversity is important in the election process, and we're not going to run away from the fact that New Hampshire is a predominantly white state. But from our perspective, this is not about racial diversity. This is about the little guy, the average American citizen that when they were in the fourth grade had the dream to grow up and be president of the United States, and New Hampshire is probably the only state left where that could happen. It is very easy to get on the primary election ballot. It's a simple declaration of candidacy and a $1,000 filing fee.

And New Hampshire is a small state geographically and population wise. So a person can come to New Hampshire and run a campaign without name recognition and without a great deal of money, and they have the opportunity to break out of the pack. It is important that that opportunity occur at the beginning of the process as opposed to the end so that if a person does do well here and they want to move their campaign forward, they can take it to the other states. There are 24 candidates on the Republican ballot. There are 21 on the Democratic ballot this time. And as I said, there's no other state that comes close to that type of participation. And those candidates that run here are incredibly diverse, both racially financially and education wise. They believe they have something to offer the country, and they want to put it on the line in New Hampshire.

MARTÍNEZ: That's New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan. Secretary, thanks.

SCANLAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CASTLEBEAT'S "RESEARCH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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