Ballot Law Commission tosses Trump challenge

North Andover attorney Marc Salinas, representing former President Donald Trump, spoke to reporters after a State Ballot Law Commission pre-hearing conference on  Jan. 18. 

North Andover attorney Marc Salinas, representing former President Donald Trump, spoke to reporters after a State Ballot Law Commission pre-hearing conference on  Jan. 18.  STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

By Chris Lisinski

State House News Service

Published: 01-22-2024 8:52 PM

BOSTON – A Massachusetts panel on Monday unanimously denied an effort to remove former President Donald Trump’s name from the Republican presidential primary ballot.

The State Ballot Law Commission dismissed a challenge that alleged Trump is ineligible for office due to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, ruling that it does not have jurisdiction over the case.

Four days after an attorney for Trump contended that the former president has not yet been nominated under Massachusetts law and that the objectors failed to comply with notice requirements, the panel made similar points in a 10-page decision that turned away the challenge.

“The Commission, having reviewed the materials submitted, has determined that the State Ballot Law Commission does not have jurisdiction over the matters presented,” the panel wrote.

In a footnote, commissioners added that even if they had determined they had jurisdiction, the challenges filed by parties including Free Speech for People and civil rights firm Lichten & Liss-Riordan failed to notify other Republican presidential candidates on the ballot or the state Republican Party, “thereby subjecting them to dismissal.”

The groups, who were represented last week by former Democratic U.S. Senate and attorney general candidate Shannon Liss-Riordan, had argued that Trump is ineligible to appear on the ballot because the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bans anyone who under an oath of office has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”

Commissioners said their ability to address challenges about presidential candidates is “limited in scope.”

“Donald Trump’s name will not be appearing on the presidential primary ballot as a result [sic] the submission of nomination papers or a certificate of nomination over which the Commission does have jurisdiction,” they wrote in their decision. “Rather, Donald Trump’s name will appear on the presidential primary ballot as a result of the Republican State Committee’s submission of his name to the Secretary of the Commonwealth on September 29, 2023 pursuant section 70E of chapter 53 of the General Laws. This submission from the state party should not be confused with a ‘certificate of nomination’ referenced in sections 4 and 5 of chapter 55B.”

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All three current members of the panel – retired Judge Francis T. Crimmins Jr., Joseph Eisenstadt and former Sen. Joe Boncore – signed the decision.

Secretary of State William Galvin oversaw a drawing on Jan. 2 setting the order of names appearing on the March 5 presidential primary ballot, including Trump’s. Galvin’s office has said that ballots went to print immediately after the drawing.

Elections officials in other states have also been pressed to consider Trump’s eligibility in the light of the attack that sought to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last month that the Fourteenth Amendment deems Trump ineligible, and the case will soon go before the U.S. Supreme Court with oral arguments scheduled for Feb. 8.