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Will Trump be on the Massachusetts presidential ballot? Commission considers legal challenges

Will Trump be on the Massachusetts ballot? Commission considers legal challenges
Will Trump be on the Massachusetts ballot? Commission considers legal challenges 02:36

BOSTON - The State Ballot Law Commission met Thursday to consider objections to former President Donald Trump appearing on the Massachusetts primary election ballot, but its member aren't sure they have the power to disqualify from. 

The pre-hearing conference in Boston centered on two objections over Trump's actions on January 6, 2021 - the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Civil rights group Free Speech For People and a local law firm say Trump should be disqualified because he violates a Constitutional clause that says anyone who "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" can't be president.

The commission is made up of three members: retired Judge Francis T. Crimmins, lawyer Joseph Eisenstadt and former state Sen. Joseph Boncore. They must first decide if they are qualified to take up the case.

Challengers to Trump's eligibility say it's well within the commission's jurisdiction and are asking for a decision by Jan. 29, while the other side says no action can be taken unless the former president officially wins the nomination. 

"We believe that Mr. Trump's candidacy for this office and placement on the Massachusetts ballot violates that Constitution so we're challenging the constitutionalist," objecting attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan said.

Earlier this month, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin unveiled the ballot order for the March 5 Massachusetts primaries, and Trump's name was included among the Republican candidates. He also noted that Trump could win as a write-in candidate even if challenges to take him off the ballot were successful. 

"Even though Secretary Galvin has said his job is just to put candidates on the ballot, it is the job of this commission to hear objections to the legality of such placements of candidates on the ballot," said Liss-Riordan.

Campaign lawyer Marc Salinas said removing Trump from the primary ballot now would be premature.

"There's no legal basis to deny somebody access to the ballot purely on the issue of disqualification," he said. "It's not until they are nominated that the jurisdiction is conferred on this commission." 

Galvin's office said ballots are being printed with Trump's name on them and he won't be removed unless there's an order to do so. 

Challenges to Trump on the presidential ballot

The meeting comes one day after day after a Maine court paused an order from Secretary of State Shanna Bellows that excluded Trump from the primary ballot, pending a Supreme Court ruling. 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments next month on a decision from Colorado's top court that ruled Trump to be ineligible for the presidency. Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts are among more than a dozen states set to hold presidential primaries on "Super Tuesday."

Trump's lawyers have argued that allowing states to disqualify him from the ballot would "unconstitutionally disenfranchise millions of voters." His supporters said Trump hasn't been convicted of anything with regard to the storming of the Capitol.

"This whole issue is really based on no substantiation that the president was involved in any kind of insurrection, there is no conviction that he's done anything wrong in regards to that," said former Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.

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