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Trump’s felony conviction may not bar him from WA ballot, says secretary of state

Steve Hobbs says the courts will have to weigh in

By Claire Withycombe, The Seattle Times
Published: June 4, 2024, 8:31am

OLYMPIA — Washington’s top election official says he does not believe a state law that allows voters to challenge the right of a candidate with a felony conviction to appear on the general election ballot applies to presidential candidates.

Former President Donald Trump, who is running again to return to the White House, was convicted of 34 felony counts in New York last week in connection with a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said Monday that his office had “received numerous media inquiries” about whether the state statute, RCW 29A.68.020, can be applied to a candidate for U.S. President.

That state statute says a registered voter can contest the right of a candidate to appear on the general election ballot, on the basis of a felony conviction before the election. The law was the subject of a column over the weekend by The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat.

“Although any such determination would have to be made by a court, I do not believe states can add to the requirements set in the U.S. Constitution for candidates for president,” Hobbs, a Democrat, said in a Monday statement.

The constitution requires any candidate for president to be a “natural-born citizen” of the U.S., at least 35 years old and a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years.

Hobbs added that he is required by state law to certify the names of presidential candidates nominated by a major party. The law also requires presidential candidates to be certified for the November ballot by Aug. 20 this year. So far neither has submitted nominees yet.

Earlier this year, a Washington judge rejected eight Kitsap County residents’ efforts to remove Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot.

They had argued that Trump was ineligible for office under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits anyone who has served as “an officer of the United States” from holding office if they have “engaged in insurrection.” They had argued that Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol constituted an insurrection.

Trump, who says he will appeal the conviction, will return to court on July 11 for sentencing. He is expected to formally accept his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee a few days later.

The certification deadline comes a couple of days before President Joe Biden’s nomination is expected to be formally voted on at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which runs Aug. 19-22.

Washington election officials will accept a provisional certification from the DNC by Aug. 20 attesting that Biden will be the party’s nominee. Washington accepted such provisional certifications on behalf of Trump and Biden from the two parties in 2020.

Trump, who has not yet announced a running mate, is set to debate Biden on June 27.

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