Would Keeping Trump Off the Ballot Hurt or Help Democracy?

A Donald Trump campaign volunteer laying out campaign signs before an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this month. As the top elections official in Washington State, Steve Hobbs says he is troubled by the threat former President Donald J. Trump poses to democracy and fears the prospect of his return to power. But he also worries that recent decisions in Maine and Colorado to bar Mr. Trump from presidential primary ballots there could backfire, further eroding Americans’ fraying faith in U.S. elections. “Removing him from the ballot would, on its face value, seem very anti-democratic,” said Mr. Hobbs, a Democrat who is in his first term as secretary of state. Then he added a critical caveat: “But so is trying to overthrow your country.” Mr. Hobbs’s misgivings reflect deep divisions and unease among elected officials, democracy experts and voters over how to handle Mr. Trump’s campaign to reclaim the presidency four years after he went to extraordinary lengths in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. While some, like Mr. Hobbs, think it best that voters settle the matter, others say that Mr. Trump’s efforts require accountability and should be legally disqualifying. Challenges to Mr. Trump’s candidacy have been filed in at least 32 states, though many of those challenges have gained little or no traction, and some have languished on court dockets for months. The decisions happening right now come amid a collapse of faith in the American electoral system, said Nate Persily, a Stanford Law School professor who specializes in election law and democracy. “We are walking in new constitutional snow here to try and figure out how to deal with these unprecedented developments,” he said. Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs at a debate in 2022.Credit… Ted S. Warren/Associated Press Professor Persily and other legal experts […]

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By Donato