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Friday, June 21, 2024

Bill Would Allow Washington Legislature to Ban Political Candidates

'It would require the Secretary of State to move from an administrative role in elections to a determinative one...'

(TJ Martinell, The Center Square) A Washington bill introduced this session would give the state Legislature and the Secretary of State the power to ban a political candidate from appearing on a ballot in the state.

House Bill 2150, sponsored by Rep. Kristine Reeves, D-Federal Way, sets up a process by which the Legislature and SOS can disqualify a candidate based on their interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits anyone from running for office who previously “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same (United States), or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

However, the bill also considers a candidate to be disqualified “who has been convicted of, or charged with and not yet acquitted of, any state or federal crime arising from actions taken while serving as a state or federal officer, whether or not those actions were taken in the course of official duties.” This section would be interpreted in conformity “with relevant court decisions interpreting that section.”

If passed, the bill could allow the Legislature to remove President Donald Trump, who is running for the office again and is currently facing several criminal charges though none regarding insurrection.

The bill would require political candidates to sign an oath created by SOS attesting that they are eligible to run. The Legislature would authorized to send a resolution to SOS by a simple majority vote requesting that a candidate be removed from the ballot and must “clearly state the grounds on which the legislature believes the candidate is or may be ineligible, citing the relevant provision or provisions of law.”

The SOS would then be able to issue an order removing the candidate, or deny the request. However, the Legislature would still have the authority to remove a candidate by a two-thirds vote.

A political candidate would be able to appeal the decision in Thurston County Superior Court.

When asked for comment on the bill, SOS Deputy Director of External Affairs Derrick Nunnally wrote that the proposal would constitute a significant expansion of their responsibilities, as “it would require the Secretary of State to move from an administrative role in elections to a determinative one, since there would be a new responsibility to decide the eligibility of everyone who files for a state or federal office.”

According to Nunnally, SOS would have to determine the eligibility for 375 elected offices.

Additionally, he noted that the time frame between filing dates and printing deadlines for ballots would “present a significant challenge to making those eligibility determinations – especially if any substantial degree of research is involved.”

HB 2150 has been referred to the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee, but is not scheduled for any public hearing.

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