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Classroom Resources: Should NH go first? The presidential primary order

This classroom guide focuses on history and impact of New Hampshire's presidential primary, including the debate over who should vote first and alternative primary orders.


Key concepts/standards

  • Understand what it means to be first in the nation, role of New Hampshire in national politics 
  • Identify benefits and drawbacks of primary system 
  • Consider how electoral process impacts third parties, minority voices 
  • Form opinion based on critical examination of relevant information 
  • Participate in persuading, compromising, debating, and negotiating the resolution of conflicts and differences 

Discussion questions

  • Why is the presidential primary order important?
  • Has NH always gone first?
  • What would a regional primary schedule look like?
  • What would an "inverse pyramid" primary schedule look like?
  • What would a rotating primary schedule look like?
  • What would a national primary look like?
  • How would you schedule presidential primaries, and why?


Have each student write a proposed order for the state primaries and provide three arguments why this order would select the best presidential candidates. Then partner students and have them explain their methods to each other. After that, have each student take their partner’s method and provide three critiques of why the method would not select the best presidential candidates.

Alternatively, have each student choose the name of a state out of a hat. For homework, have them briefly research the state and provide three reasons why the state should go first in the presidential primary process and three reasons why the state should not go first. They may wish to consider:

  • Average voter turnout in the state 
  • Racial and ethnic demographics of the state 
  • Partisan makeup of the state 
  • Size of the state 
  • Educational attainment 
  • Urban/rural character of the state 

Ballotpedia provides voter turnout data by state going back many years.  

The U.S. Census Bureau provides some basic demographic information about the U.S. that students can compare to individual state profiles.

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