Politics

Oregon secretary of state won’t bar Donald Trump from Republican primary ballot

By OPB staff (OPB)
Nov. 30, 2023 6:30 p.m.

A national advocacy group is pushing state election regulators to prevent Trump from seeking reelection, using a Constitutional amendment approved in the wake of the Civil War.

Oregon’s secretary of state says she will not remove Donald Trump from the May 2024 presidential primary ballot, rejecting a push from a group that argues he should be barred from serving again because of his role in spurring the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Oregon’s secretary of state says she will not remove Donald Trump, shown in this Sept. 25, 2023 file photo, from the May 2024 presidential primary ballot, rejecting a push from a group that argues he should be barred from serving again because of his role in spurring the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Oregon’s secretary of state says she will not remove Donald Trump, shown in this Sept. 25, 2023 file photo, from the May 2024 presidential primary ballot, rejecting a push from a group that argues he should be barred from serving again because of his role in spurring the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Artie Walker Jr. / AP

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The advocacy group Free Speech for People is pushing election officials across the country to keep Trump off 2024 ballots. They cite Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was passed after the Civil War as a way to stop former Confederates from seeking public office.

Section 3 specifically bars from elected, civil or military office anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

On Thursday, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade said she lacks the authority to block Trump from the primary ballot.

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State elections staff, who work for Griffin-Valade, do have the power to vet the qualifications of people who want to appear on most primary ballots to hold state office; election regulators used that power in 2022 to bar New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof from the Democratic primary for governor, ruling that he could not establish Oregon residency in time.

But the state attorney general’s office told Griffin-Valade that presidential primaries are different. Oregon voters who return their ballots in the GOP primary next May will not be selecting the next president.

“Unique among Oregon elections, they do not determine who is elected to office or even who will appear on the general-election ballot. Rather, they effectively serve as a straw poll of party members to determine their preferred candidates and to guide the delegates to the party’s national convention,” wrote Benjamin Gutman, Oregon’s solicitor general.

“Whether Section 3 bars former President Trump from returning to office is a question of paramount importance to American democracy,” Gutman wrote. “But it is not a question that the Legislature has charged the Secretary with determining when assembling a list of candidates at the primary election stage.”

Gutman recommended Griffin-Valade put off any decision about whether Trump qualifies for the general election ballot in Oregon, given that legal debates are underway in multiple states over whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment applies to his campaign.

Griffin-Valade noted that her decision applies only to the primary.

“I understand that people want to skip to the end of this story. But right now, we don’t even know who the nominee will be,” she said in her statement. “When the general election comes, we’ll follow the law and be completely transparent with our reasoning.”

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