New legislation could bar Trump from Washington primary ballot

Jan 11, 2024, 10:44 AM

The state of Washington is poised to enter the national debate on former President Donald Trump’s legitimacy to appear on a presidential primary ballot, including the March 12 primary ballot.

In a move described as “bolstering the integrity of elections,” Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way) has pre-filed HB 2150, a bill that aims to prevent Trump or any candidate accused of insurrection, as defined by the 14th Amendment, from being listed on any ballot. (Users can view a PDF of the proposed bill here.)

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Before this becomes a reality, there are several legislative hurdles to overcome.

If passed, the bill could empower state lawmakers and/or the secretary of state to remove Trump from the primary ballot or invalidate votes he may have garnered.

“Obviously, we have individuals who will be on the ballot this year that, in my personal opinion, have disqualified themselves from participating in our election process due to their involvement in insurrectionist behavior,” Reeves told KIRO Newsradio.

While the bill is broad enough to encompass not just presidential candidates accused of insurrectionist behavior, Reeves admits that the primary focus of the legislation is Trump.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure that not only Donald Trump but anyone following him meets the requirements to be eligible to run for public office,” Reeves said.

“For too long, we’ve relied on the honor system when it comes to candidates and their eligibility. This is about ensuring that individuals genuinely meet those requirements, and that includes refraining from attempting to overthrow the government,” she adds.

The legislation stipulates that no person shall be eligible for any state or federal office unless they meet specific qualifications outlined in the bill and other provisions of law, including the Constitutions of the State of Washington and the United States.

The legislation includes a legal provision stating that it will follow “all relevant court decisions interpreting that section” of the 14th Amendment when defining a person’s eligibility for elected office under the insurrection clause.

The law would require candidates to submit a declaration of candidacy along with an attestation of their eligibility for the office they seek. The Secretary of State would be responsible for determining if a candidate meets office eligibility requirements – a brand new job for the secretary.

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Deputy Director of External Affairs for the Secretary of State Derrick Nunnally said the office is still digesting the implications of the newly filed bill.

“The legislation calls for the Secretary of State to determine that each candidate meets the qualifications for office, including state and federal offices. So it’s not just the presidency and vice presidency; it includes the nine statewide elected executive offices, the nine statewide Supreme Court justices, 100 Superior Court judges, 22 appellate judges, congressional and U.S. Senate candidates – that’s 375 different offices,” Nunnally explained.

While the secretary of state primarily administers elections, the bill grants the office new authority to decide the eligibility of a candidate.

“(That has) never happened before,” Nunnally noted.

The legislation also grants state lawmakers the authority to disqualify a candidate from a ballot. The House and Senate could pass a resolution instructing the Secretary of State to drop a candidate from the ballot. If the secretary refuses to do so after 10 days, the legislature can order the secretary to remove the name from the ballot, requiring a two-thirds majority to do so.

On Monday, the Washington State Republican Party submitted five names for the March 12 presidential primary ballot: Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and investor Vivek Ramaswamy. Christie announced the end of his presidential bid Wednesday.

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Should the Democratically-led House and Senate pass HB2150 after the printing of the ballot and just days before the primary, both Reeves and Nunnally said the subsequent steps are unclear.

“If ballots have already been printed and sent to voters, the number of votes that person receives won’t be published and may not be disclosed for any reason,” Reeves said. She mentioned that she may consult with the Attorney General for further clarification.

“I think it’s essential for me to express that yes, Donald Trump is the example, but he’s not the only person out there who this could apply to,” Reeves added.

HB2150 has been referred to the House Government & Tribal Relations Committee. No hearing date has been set.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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