Secretary of State Dave Scanlan addresses reporters in his office on Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, 2023. At Scanlan’s right is Senior Deputy Secretary of State Patti Lovejoy. (Ethan DeWitt | New Hampshire Bulletin)
Former President Donald Trump is clear to run as a candidate in New Hampshire’s presidential primary next year despite his involvement in the events leading to the Jan. 6 insurrection, the state attorney general and secretary of state asserted Wednesday.
“There is no mention in New Hampshire state statute that a candidate in a national presidential primary can be disqualified using the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution referencing insurrection or rebellion,” Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said.
“… If a candidate for president properly submits their paperwork during the filing period, and pays the required fee, their name will appear on the ballot.”
On Wednesday, the Attorney General’s Office released a four-page letter to Scanlan outlining a similar conclusion.
The assessment, announced by Scanlan at a packed press conference, is intended as a response to a lawsuit filed by a little-known Republican presidential candidate in late August. That lawsuit argues that Trump is barred by the U.S. Constitution from running for office because of his involvement in Jan. 6.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states that no person shall “hold any office … under the United States” if they had previously “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” when they were an elected official.
Some legal scholars and Republicans – including former U.S. Senate candidate Corky Messner – have said that Trump’s involvement in staging a protest against the certification process of the 2020 election on Jan. 6 in Washington counted as engaging in insurrection or rebellion. Thousands of protesters turned violent and broke into the U.S. Capitol, forcing an evacuation of lawmakers and a massive police response. Trump had urged protesters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell,” but he later disavowed the violence.
The lawsuit was filed in New Hampshire on Aug. 29 in Merrimack County Superior Court by John Anthony Castro, a Texas attorney who is running for president in some states. Ahead of its filing, Messner, who ran against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2020 and who had been endorsed by Trump in that election, said he was considering filing his own lawsuit to keep Trump off the ballot.
But Scanlan and Attorney General John Formella countered Wednesday that the 14th Amendment does not have a direct bearing on a candidate’s qualifications to run in the New Hampshire presidential primary.
New Hampshire state statute RSA 655:47 requires only that a candidate swears under penalty of perjury that they meet all the qualifications of Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution to run for president: that they are a natural born citizen, at least 35 years old, and have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. As long as a candidate swears to that and those qualifications are not disproven, they can run, Scanlan told reporters Wednesday.
“RSA 655:47, I, does not afford the Secretary of State discretion to withhold a candidate’s name from the ballot on the grounds that the candidate may be disqualified under Section Three (of Article 14) when a candidate has not been convicted or otherwise adjudicated guilty of conduct that would disqualify a candidate under Section Three,” Formella wrote in his letter to Scanlan.
Scanlan said that the assessment related only to Trump’s qualifications to run on New Hampshire’s presidential primary ballot, which determines the number of New Hampshire delegates the major political parties pledge during their nominating conventions. He did not address the application of the 14th Amendment to the general election in 2024.
The announcement of the state’s legal analysis came as Scanlan announced the filing period for presidential candidates in New Hampshire: All candidates will need to file in New Hampshire between Oct. 11 and Oct. 27, he said.
Voters who are currently registered to a political party have until Oct. 6 to change their party registrations, Scanlan said. Any voter who does not do so by then may vote only in the presidential primary that adheres to their party registration. Voters who are registered as “undeclared” – or who do so before Oct. 6 – may choose to vote in either primary on Election Day.
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