Rantz: Democrats will try to remove Donald Trump from Washington state ballot

Jun 2, 2024, 5:55 PM

Photo: Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023....

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. (File photo: Reba Saldanha, AP)

(File photo: Reba Saldanha, AP)

After former president Donald Trump’s politically motivated convictions, local activists appear ready to pull his name from the Washington state ballot this November. They’re relying on an old law that they claim applies to federal elections. Though their claims seem dubious and promised actions transparent, they might end up hurting Democrats more than Trump.

In a dramatically titled column, “Plot twist: WA has a law against felons running for office,” Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat cites a local activist lawyer who said he has clients ready to keep Trump off the ballot. The columnist cites RCW 29A.68.020 as providing registered voters the right to “challenge the right of a candidate to appear on the general election ballot after a primary.” This could apply to a candidate who was “convicted of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction, the conviction not having been reversed nor the person’s civil rights restored after the conviction” prior to the election.

“I have clients lined up who are going to be all over pursuing a ballot challenge in this case,” Seattle attorney David Vogel told Westneat. The former King County deputy prosecutor was “briefly involved in an earlier ballot challenge against Trump before the presidential primary,” according to Westneat.

In an email to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH, Vogel confirmed his plan to challenge Trump in the general election. His effort in the primary, like this new threatened one, won’t only fail. It will expose left-wing hypocrisy.

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Does this law even apply to Trump being on Washington state’s ballot?

The RCW, based on changes made via House Bill 2624, likely doesn’t apply to Trump.

HB 2624 was introduced to address election errors and irregularities, particularly those involving ballot measures. In the bill, it added the right of a voter to challenge a felon from appearing on the ballot.

However, the bill was intended solely for state and local elections. The Code Reviser’s Office, in the bill’s digest, notes the legislation is about “local and state ballot measures under certain conditions.” The House Bill report at the time, after it was passed, noted the bill was relegated to “local and state” elections.

Giving an opening to Vogel if he plans to use this RCW in his challenge, and cheered on by Westneat, is that the language in the law doesn’t specifically state this is about local and state elections. But that’s not all that meaningful in this case.

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States don’t supersede the United States Constitution on presidential qualifications

As much as activists want to keep Trump from the Washington state ballot, federal elections are governed primarily by the U.S. Constitution and federal laws. Neither Washington nor any state can impose additional qualifications or restrictions on federal candidates beyond those specified by federal law. This is established in Supreme Court decisions in Powell v. McCormack (1969) and U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (1995).  There is no constitutional qualification barring felons from running for office.

Westneat argues that “States do have latitude to control the ballot,” pointing to the drama in Ohio. “Ohio has been debating whether to bar President Joe Biden from its ballot over a filing deadline issue, so it’s clear states can do such a thing,” he said.

As proof, Westneat links to a January editorial claiming states can remove Trump from ballots under the Fourteenth Amendment. In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court recently stated the very obvious: no states cannot. Why Westneat chose this editorial to make his case is perplexing but it matches the laziness in which he argues his case.

But states have some rights, don’t they?

Westneat is right that states have some latitude over the ballot. Indeed, he notes the extent they can likely impact national elections.

States are responsible for administering our federal elections. The responsibilities include managing voter registration, the design of ballots, and election procedures. The Ohio drama is around administrative issues. The deadline to submit the nominees for the ballots (August 7) comes before the Democrat’s nominating convention (August 19). That deadline was set by the legislature, as is the case in Washington state.

There is no federal mandate that a party re-nominate an incumbent president in late August. That is a choice by the Democrat National Committee. This isn’t even a particularly good argument from Westneat. As he must know, since it’s in the article he links to, the DNC is going to virtually nominate Biden before August 7.

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Even so … would this law keep Trump off the ballot?

Even if this law were to unconstitutionally apply to federal elections, the way it’s written gives Trump an obvious path to the Washington state ballot.

The RCW makes it clear the candidate found guilty of a felony can still appear on the ballot if the conviction has been reversed. Trump will be the nominated candidate in July. By then, the appeal will have already been filed. Unless the Supreme Court gets involved, which is highly unlikely at this point, the appeal won’t be settled until after the election.

Washington has some of the most partisan judges in the country and the challenge can go virtually anywhere. I can imagine a hyper-partisan judge has no problem outing themselves as incompetent and removing Trump from the ballot. But that would obviously lead to an appeal. And not even our state supreme court would sully their chambers by ignoring an active appeal to keep Trump off the Washington ballot.

The attorney isn’t providing too many details yet

Vogel, the attorney threatening to bring claims to keep Trump off the ballot, would not disclose who his clients are.

“My clients in the primary ballot challenge were subjected to harassment, so I will disclose the identities of the plaintiffs in this general election challenge only when the complaint is filed, and only if necessary,” Vogel explained to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

It’s not entirely clear if he plans to use this RCW exclusively. He told me that, “As recognized by the US Supreme Court, States are allowed to regulate the selection of their electors in the Electoral College.”

Democrat lawmakers are unlikely to call this scheme out the way they would if it was even uttered by a Republican supporting Trump.

Democrats don’t care that you know they lack principles

In-between claims that democracy is on the line (if we vote for a candidate Democrats don’t like) and that we may never have elections again if Trump is elected, Democrats are trying to prevent an election contest between the two inevitable nominees for president.

When it comes to Trump, Washington state Democrats have neither shame nor moral compass. Democrat activists tried, and failed, to keep Trump off the primary ballot. While chiding Trump for denying the results of the 2020 election, Seattle congresswoman Pramila Jayapal tried to stop Trump’s certification in 2016.

So much for fighting for democracy. Democrats don’t particularly care their actions are inconsistent with their stated views because they don’t actually believe democracy is on the line. This is all a performance courtesy of Trump Derangement Syndrome; one that will earn them several Razzies.

To highlight the hypocrisy, we should note that there is even a current felon serving in the state legislature.

State Rep. Tarra Simmons was celebrated for being a “formerly incarcerated person” who now serves because she brings the perspective of felons to the table when discussing criminal justice reforms. How can she be celebrated if Democrats stay quiet as Trump is being threatened with a lawsuit pulling him from the ballot? (For her part, Simmons said she doesn’t support pulling Trump from the ballot and is using this as an opportunity to note there may be some agreement on an “unjust system” on both the Left and the Right.)

Moreover, Democrats spent the last legislative session attempting to get currently incarcerated felons the right to vote and serve on juries. And, of course, Democrats, particularly in Seattle and King County, have been working hard to keep criminals (including violent ones) out of jail.

Are Democrats scared of Trump?

Suddenly, Democrats pretend to be offended by Trump’s politically motivated felony convictions on a case everyone knows will be overturned on appeal. Given who the Democrats fight for, had Trump actually shot someone in the middle of Times Square, as he joked, he would have been given a pass in Washington and could stay on the ballot.

Or perhaps they fear that the party’s overzealous and disturbingly extreme reaction to Trump running for re-election is going to backfire.

A new Cascade PBS/Elway Poll shows Biden with soft support. The numbers suggest Trump has a path (however narrow and unlikely) to win even in Washington state. Despite being a deep blue state, Biden only has 42% support (31% certain, 11% inclined to support the president but could change their minds). Trump has 34% support (25% certain, 9% inclined to support the former president but could change their minds). With media coverage so positively skewed towards Biden and against Trump, both poll results are surprising for Washington voters.

With Biden showing such a poor showing, it’s no wonder Democrats are desperate enough to try to keep Trump off the ballot again. But it’ll just backfire again, making it easier for Trump to engender sympathy while exposing Democrats as extremists and hypocrites. That can’t help their brand.

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Rantz: Democrats will try to remove Donald Trump from Washington state ballot