NH Makes Pivotal Decision
For months, the debate has raged over whether former President Donald Trump can be blocked from the ballot in New Hampshire — the first state to hold a primary in the Republican nominating calendar.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Dave Scanlan put an end to much of the speculation on Wednesday when he announced that Trump's name will appear on the 2024 presidential primary ballot as long as he signs his declaration of candidacy and pays the $1,000 filing fee.
"That language is not discretionary," Scanlan emphasized at the news conference convened at the state house in Concord.
The announcement comes after both Bryant "Corky" Messner, an attorney and prominent Republican who won the 2020 Senate nomination thanks in great part to Trump's support, and John Anthony Castro — a Texas-based attorney running an extreme long-shot bid for the GOP presidential nomination — filed lawsuits in a New Hampshire court that aimed to keep Trump off the primary ballot. Separately, a legal advocacy group had sent letters to election officials in nine states asking them to keep Trump off the ballot.
Though Messner and Castro sought to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — which disqualifies those who've taken an oath to support the Constitution from holding office again if they've "given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof" — Scanlan stressed that "there is no mention in New Hampshire state statute that a candidate in a New Hampshire presidential primary can be disqualified using the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution referencing insurrection or rebellion."
Formella concurred, adding that state law doesn't "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 when a candidate has not been convicted or otherwise."
Scanlan also announced that the filing period for presidential candidates to put their names on the New Hampshire ballot will extend from Oct. 11 to Oct. 27, about three weeks earlier than four years ago during the 2020 cycle.
But the window of opportunity presents a collision with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which overwhelmingly voted in early February to dramatically alter the top of its schedule for the 2024 election cycle — bumping Iowa and New Hampshire from their longtime leadoff positions. Democrats for years have knocked both Iowa and New Hampshire for being largely White with few major urban areas.
The DNC has extended a Sept. 1 deadline to New Hampshire to come into compliance or face getting booted from the early state window for the 2024 cycle.
The move sparked vigorous opposition from the Granite State, which has a nearly half-century-old law that mandates it hold the first presidential primary, a week ahead of any similar contest and has warned that any efforts to move the primary would face a legal battle.
Scanlan emphasized that a decision on the matter "requires a ruling from the United States Supreme Court to do anything differently than what we have planned here," and said New Hampshire GOP chair Chris Ager was "very happy with the decision."
"Now we can put the 14th Amendment to bed in New Hampshire and get back to campaigning," said Ager.
If New Hampshire is ruled non-compliant, the state could lose half of its delegates to next summer's Democratic presidential nominating convention, under DNC penalties passed last year.
Most secretaries of state have balked at the idea of striking a presidential candidate on their own from the ballot, while Minnesota Secretary of State Scott Simon — a Democrat — said in a statement his office can’t take such action on its own and could only do so if compelled by courts.
The issue will likely only be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the clause in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.