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Washington judge rules Trump can remain on primary ballot

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Mary Altaffer / AP
Mary Altaffer / AP

A judge in Thurston County dismissed a recent attempt by Washington voters to have former president Donald Trump removed from the state's primary ballot in March. On Thursday, January 18, Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson ruled that the Washington secretary of state was within his rights to include Trump on the GOP ticket for the upcoming primary.

The proponents of the suit argued that including Trump on the ballot violates the 14th Amendment's "insurrectionist ban."

Wilson's ruling came just days after another Washington judge in Kitsap County refused to issue a ruling on the case, arguing that it should be taken up in Olympia. The case was first brought forward in Kitsap County by a group of petitioners, though they were heavily outnumbered in the courtroom by Trump's supporters.

"If we are not a nation that adheres to the Constitution, then we have nothing to stand on," petitioner Franky Ithaka said at the January 18 ruling. "And the Constitution is clear in plain text, that if you engage in an insurrection, you cannot be president, you cannot run for president, you cannot hold public office again."

Judge Wilson disagreed. "The Secretary of State acted consistent with his duties," Wilson said in her ruling. "An order directing the secretary of state to take different action, an order from this court, is simply not supported by the statutes and not supported by the affidavit of the electors."

The secretary of state is responsible for drafting the primary ballots in Washington. Currently, the office is held by a Democrat, Steve Hobbs.

Wilson elaborated in her ruling that Washington's laws do not require voting officials to "extensively fact check" candidates and that it was not up to the state to determine whether Trump's candidacy violates the 14th Amendment.

This ruling means Washington will allow Republicans to vote for Trump in the primary, a surprise to some, after some blue states ruled otherwise. In Maine and Colorado, judges ruled that Trump was ineligible, though several pro-Trump groups are appealing those rulings.

Judge Wilson also noted that Colorado has different state election laws, which allowed it to bar Trump from the ballot. The former president is now challenging Colorado's decision in the US Supreme Court.

Before Washington, Oregon and California also faced similar challenges. Judges in those states determined that Trump could remain on the ballot.

Republicans across the state celebrated the ruling. "Some people will say this is about Trump. We say it's about the democratic process and a win for democracy today," Jim Walsh, chair of the Washington Republican Party said in a statement.

Despite attempts to keep Trump off the ballot, he continues to lead in early GOP primaries and caucuses. He won a significant victory in the first caucus in Iowa, leading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to drop out of the race.

Washington's primary election will be on March 12.