Plot twist: WA has a law against felons running for office – The Seattle Times

If local Republicans knew what was good for them, they would now move to drop Donald Trump from Washington’s fall ballot.
I know, they won’t. They’re in too deep. Trump won 76% of our state’s GOP presidential primary vote. It’s become like a cult, as the party seems eager to debase itself by shedding all its longstanding talk about the rule of law and personal responsibility — as well as any chances of winning here in Washington — to sink ever deeper into the muck of Trump.
So here’s another reason to dump Trump from the Washington ballot. If Republicans don’t do it, somebody else may try it for them.
It turns out Washington has a law on the books against convicted felons running for office.
It was first established back when Washington was a territory, in 1865, that anyone convicted of “infamous crimes” could be blocked from holding elected office. That was modified in 1959, and then again more recently, to the scheme we have today.
Any registered voter can “challenge the right of a candidate to appear on the general election ballot” for any of five causes, state law says. One of those causes is flashing in bold neon lights today: “Because the person whose right is being contested was, previous to the election, convicted of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction, the conviction not having been reversed nor the person's civil rights restored after the conviction.”
How about 34 felonies?
“I have clients lined up who are going to be all over pursuing a ballot challenge in this case,” says David Vogel, a Seattle attorney and former deputy prosecutor for King County who was briefly involved in an earlier ballot challenge against Trump before the presidential primary.
I asked the Secretary of State’s Office if this provision allowing ballot challenges against convicted felons might not apply in this case. For example, is it only for state and local candidates, not federal?
They answered: “Whether that provision applies would be a question for courts to decide.” (The Secretary of State later said Monday he didn't believe the state could remove a presidential candidate, but reiterated it was up to the courts).
States do have some latitude to control the ballot. Candidates for president are excluded from Washington’s ballot all the time, though typically it happens to minor-party candidates who didn’t follow filing deadlines or didn't meet the requirements to hold the office.
Ohio has been debating whether to bar President Joe Biden from its ballot over a filing deadline issue, so it’s clear states can consider doing such a thing.
Washington law says a voter can file a challenge once candidates are certified to appear on the fall ballot, which for presidential races typically occurs after the parties’ national nominating conventions in late summer. That voter challenge goes to “any justice of the supreme court, judge of the court of appeals, or judge of the superior court in the proper county,” who, according to state statute, can potentially strip a candidate’s name from ballots prior to the election if they have a felony conviction.
Hoo boy. Republicans: You sure you want to go down this road?
It seems possible that under Washington state law, there would be no name listed on ballots as a Republican candidate for president in November. If so, it will be because the party’s chosen candidate was too much of a disgrace to even meet the minimum state standards.
I wonder if other states bar felons from running, too.
Regardless of what happens with the ballot, why not change course out of basic decency and political expediency? There’s been plenty of talk urging Democrats to drop Biden and pick another candidate at their nominating convention. And all he’s guilty of is having bad poll numbers and being old.
Why aren’t Republicans at least considering a different candidate now that theirs is a convicted criminal?
The reaction from local Republicans this past week though was either misdirection or groveling. Like how mob underlings sound when the boss gets sent to Rikers Island.
The state GOP chairman, Jim Walsh, attacked the trial as a “clown show.” Congressional candidate and former state Sen. Michael Baumgartner called the charges “flimsy” (though at that point they had become solid convictions) and the setting of New York as “hyperpartisan” (though it was tried there because that’s where the crimes were committed).
Congressional candidate Tiffany Smiley said darkly they’re coming after “hardworking families” next.
“It’s Donald Trump today, it could be us tomorrow,” she said.
If hardworking families are paying off porn stars and hiding the payments to influence an election — then yes, I suppose, they might be coming after you, too.
Congressional candidate Leslie Lewallen, who is supposedly a sensible moderate in the party, breezily said the verdict “does nothing to disqualify President Trump from holding office, and I look forward to casting my ballot for him in November.”
One thing conspicuously missing? Nobody said: “He didn’t do it.” Nobody said: “He’s a good man, he’s innocent.”
Even his staunchest defenders know he did it.
What happened to you, Republicans?
Your standard-bearer tried to overturn the 2020 election, and now has been convicted of illegally influencing the 2016 election. His company was convicted of 17 felonies for tax fraud. He also has been found civilly liable for sexual abuse and corporate fraud, and now joins his former campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, national security adviser, multiple former election law attorneys, and a personal lawyer, all as current, or former, felons.

Sensing a pattern here? As I wrote in December, any time he or his minions go before a judge or a jury, “they have lost. Every single time. That’s the quiet engines of democracy, pushing back.”
This time, those engines were a 12-citizen jury. The courtroom is different from the campaign trail and the social media spin ecosystem. Facts and evidence still seem to matter there. Ordinary people, the kind who serve on juries, still care.
It’s embarrassing that even in Washington state, no Republican remaining seems to have the courage or the character of those ordinary people. The real story of this era isn’t so much about this one flawed, narcissistic figure, as it is the spinelessness of the sycophants along the way.
It’s not too late to pick a different name, to run under a less toxic, now criminal, brand.
I’ll leave you with this: Of all states to have a law that can kick convicted felons off the ballot, it’s ironic it’s Washington, no? You’d think our progressive state might have been more reform-minded. That the ballot rules might have been recast at some point to extend more mercy and second chances to those who broke bad and got caught in the jaws of the justice system.
Instead the script has flipped. It’s now the old law-and-order party looking for leniency. As it continues to shed its principles — its entire identity — to follow this one man further into the mire.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


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