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Monday, January 8th, 2024

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


     Here is the election question dominating the national news.  Can a minor state official decide the outcome of the presidential election?  The Maine Secretary Of State apparently thinks so.  She recently ruled that former President Donald Trump is ineligible to be on the ballot in the coming Maine presidential primary. Wow! I was the elected Secretary of State for eight years in Louisiana, and I never knew I had such power.

     The lady Secretary in Maine said she has determined that Trump incited a riot on January 6, 2021, and this made it necessary for her to take him off the ballot.  She went on to say that “the United States Constitution does not tolerate assault on the foundations of our government.” What we have is a state official determining what the constitution says or does not say. I thought this was the job of congress and our federal courts. But now it is open season for officials on the state level to enforce and even make federal law.

     The Maine Secretary Of State, Sheena Bellows, says that it is not uncommon for Secretaries Of States to “bar candidates on the ballot if they do not meet eligibility requirements.” Having been the overseer of numerous elections in Louisiana, I have to agree she’s right. But only in dealing with basic requirements where candidates fail to pay required qualification fees, be of the required age, and do not meet residency requirements. I served as President of the National Secretary Of States Association, and I’ve never heard of a state official barring a presidential candidate for dereliction of duty when the candidate held the same office in the past.

     Trump is also banned from being on the ballot in Colorado. But in this case, the decision was made by the state Supreme Court. For good reason, Trump is appealing this decision to the United States Supreme Court.  I’m no prognosticator of the Supremes, but I would bet good money that the nation’s highest court will throw out the Colorado decision. Otherwise, the U.S. will start a new procedure of “patchwork” democracy.  Katie bar the door because we may be looking at a whole new system of how we run our federal elections.

     From a  practical point, Maine and Colorado might be giving Donald Trump a marvelous political gift. He lost to incumbent Joe Biden in these two states by large margins in 2020, and there is nothing in the cards to assume that Biden will not win them again.  So the former president can holler more election fraud and fire up his supporters in more Trump friendly states. Fundraising efforts well no doubt show major increases in campaign giving.

      The only requirements to run for President of the United States is for a candidate to be a natural born citizen, be at least 35 years old, and have resided in the inn our country for at least 14 years. That’s it. Other requirements would take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution or a decision by the United States Supreme Court.  In fact, the states have no authority to disqualify a candidate under the 14th amendment unless Congress authorizes them †o do so.

     The whole idea of disqualifying a candidate who had previously held public is based on an act of Congress following the Civil War. The purpose was to stop confederates who had “engaged in insurrection” from retaking government posts. Such authority is referred to as Section 3 of the 14th amendment which is known as the disqualification clause. But the law has not been enforced in over 150 years ago.

      In my time serving and Secretary Of State, I never once removed someone from being a candidate. It always took a court order to do so. I checked this week with outgoing  Secretary Of State Kyle Ardoin and he too insisted on a court order before removing anyone from the ballot.

     If voters want to politically get rid of Trump, there are two legitimate ways to do it. First is impeachment and then conviction, which congress failed to do twice  involving Trump.  The second way is to beat him at the polls.  Desperate efforts by state officials to keep any presidential candidate off the ballot without a court order will be looked on by many as an “end round” effort to subvert the constitution.  Such acts are bad for the future of democracy.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.




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