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South Carolina Primary: What You Need to Know

South Carolina officially kicks off the Democrats' presidential nominating cycle. President Biden won New Hampshire's unsanctioned contest.

South Carolina is making history as it is officially kicking off the Democrats' presidential nominating cycle with its primary this month. This marks the first time that the Palmetto State will be first in the party's official lineup, and it is expected to be a crucial metric of President Biden's reelection bid. The state will also host its Republican primary three weeks later, as former President Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley battle to win Haley's home state.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has reshuffled the party's nominating calendar to amplify diversity in the early states, putting South Carolina at the start of the lineup. The move aims to elevate the voices of color by putting more demographically diverse states earlier in the timeline. While South Carolina has been moved earlier in the Democrats' calendar to elevate diverse voices, Biden has also seen warning signs for his support among Black voters, making the Palmetto State a critical first test in the cycle.

A November poll by The New York Times and Siena College found that 22 percent of Black voters in six battleground states said they would support Trump in this year's election. Though Biden saw 71 percent support, the Trump figure is the highest percentage among Black voters a Republican presidential candidate has seen in a half century.

The Palmetto State's Republican primary will come Feb. 24, roughly three weeks after the Democratic contest on Feb. 3. The latest polling averages from The Hill and Decision Desk HQ show Trump with a 30-point lead over Haley in South Carolina. Stakes are high for Haley, who was previously the governor of South Carolina, as she faces questions about her momentum to move forward and as she looks to avoid embarrassment in her home state.

In South Carolina's open primary system, registered voters can participate in either major party's primary, regardless of affiliation. The state doesn't require voters to register by party to take part in the process, and voting in either party's presidential primary doesn't confine the voter to that same party's state primary later this year. Voters had to meet January registration deadlines to cast their ballots on Election Day. Polls in South Carolina will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time on Election Day, and anyone in line at closing will be allowed to vote.

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