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New Hampshire top elections official talks And it’s aftermath.


MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan is confronting a campaign in 2024 like no other. He’s already handled some thorny issues his predecessors never had to.

Within the past year, Scanlan, a Republican appointed by his state’s legislature, has had to make a call on whether to keep former president Trump on the state’s ballot after lawsuits based on the 14th Amendment were filed in New Hampshire and other states. On the other side, Scanlan defied the Democratic National Committee’s decision to make South Carolina the first official primary state. New Hampshire will go ahead Tuesday and hold a primary anyway, though President Biden can only win as an unofficial write-in candidate.

The Democratic Party is running on democracy. Long-shot candidates cry hypocrisy.

There’s also a bigger spotlight this year on the high number of New Hampshire’s unaffiliated voters, who may choose to vote in the Republican primary and help determine its winner.

The Washington Post talked to Scanlan about 2024 and its demands, as well as why he thinks New Hampshire should remain the first presidential primary in the nation. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Question: Undeclared voters make up a sizable part of New Hampshire’s electorate, and that’s been long-standing. Are you prepared or thinking about challenges to the results if whoever comes in second is unhappy with the results?

Answer: There may be challenges depending on the outcome, we’re prepared to address those. If a candidate has questions about the validity of the vote, especially if it’s close, any candidate that receives more than 9% of the vote can request a recount.

New Hampshire’s process of allowing undeclared voters has been in place for decades. It is nothing new. I think it’s important to have undeclared voters as a part of the presidential primary process because it is designed to select a nominee that is acceptable to the party, but also gives an indication of the success a person might have for running in a general election in New Hampshire.

Q: Former President Trump and other Republicans sent you a letter asking you to keep him on the ballot. Could you tell us why you decided to keep [Trump] on the ballot after calls to remove him?

A: I conferred with the attorney general of New Hampshire on this topic, and after reading New Hampshire law and looking at the United States Constitution, we decided that in New Hampshire, the requirement to run for president of the United States is the requirements that are in Article Two, Section One of the United States Constitution, which says that a candidate must be 35 years old. They must be a natural born United States citizen, and they must have lived in the country for 14 years. And that’s it.

When it comes to the 14th Amendment, it’s a little bit more abstract than the qualifications in Article Two, in that it says that if an individual has participated in an insurrection, they cannot hold an office. I believe that there needs to be due process as part of that discussion. And the determination should not be placed on one individual to make that decision. To have a system play out where a candidate is not allowed in some states to be on the ballot but is in others, it’s going to create chaos. It’s going to create anger among our voting population.

Q: Do you wish the U.S. Supreme Court would have weighed in on this before you had to make the decision on your own?

A: Well, that certainly would have been helpful. I made a decision to leave President Trump on the ballot. Somebody could have challenged that decision in court. In fact, they have, although it has not advanced beyond the New Hampshire courts. It is a clumsy process to have this play out in the nomination process and not in a more uniform, substantial way.

Q: You decided to go against the Democratic National Committee’s vote to have its first primary in South Carolina. Why did you do that, and also, do you think that it risks confusing Democratic voters when they ask for a Democratic ballot and the incumbent president isn’t on there?

A: I think the New Hampshire voters know what’s going on. With that debate with the Democratic National Committee, what the rest of the country has to understand is that New Hampshire has held the first-in-the-nation primary since 1920. But the real reason why New Hampshire is important — and this is what everybody misses — we are a small state geographically and population wise, and it is very easy to get on the ballot in New Hampshire. It doesn’t matter where they live or what their background is, they can come here and get their name on the ballot.

It’s important that a place like that exist and happen early in the process, because if by chance, they can do well here, if they can connect with the voters and they can jump-start a campaign, they can have it play out in the remaining states in the country.

Anna Liss-Roy contributed to this report



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