Donald Trump will be on Republican ballots during Maryland’s presidential primary this spring, though it appears a vocal contingent of voters aren’t happy about it.

They wrote to the state by the dozens last summer and fall, urging Secretary of State Susan Lee to disqualify the ex-president from the ballot, as other states have attempted.

“Please, perform your duty and do not allow Donald Trump to appear on your state ballot for President in 2024,” one person wrote. “Your decision is sure to be challenged in court and may well reach the Supreme Court where its outcome is uncertain but that does not diminish your responsibility. Please act and help us save our Democracy.”

The crux of the argument is that Trump instigated an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob overran the U.S. Capitol as the 2020 election results were certified, cementing Trump’s election loss. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars anyone from becoming president — or holding many other elected offices — if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.

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But on Monday, the legal deadline, Lee sent the roster of certified candidates for the primary elections over to the Maryland State Board of Elections, and Trump was on the list. The secretary of state’s transmittal of candidate names is typically routine and goes unnoticed by most voters.

Maryland law allows for presidential candidates to be on the primary ballot if their campaign is “generally advocated or recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in Maryland.” Under that standard, Trump was among the certified candidates, Lee wrote in a brief letter.

A presidential candidate could also get on the Maryland ballot by submitting petitions with signatures from 400 registered voters from each of the state’s Congressional districts, according to state law. Candidates have until Feb. 9 to pursue that option.

Maryland Secretary of State Susan C. Lee has a legal obligation to certify candidates for president who want to appear on the state’s election ballots. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

At least a dozen states have considered attempts to keep Trump off the ballot. Maine and Colorado have gotten the most attention for keeping him off the ballot for their primary elections, decisions that Trump has challenged. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to settle the matter, and arguments in the Colorado case are scheduled before the high court on Feb. 8.

Trump’s placement on Maryland’s ballot may have little consequence when it comes to his chances of winning the presidency. Maryland reliably votes for Democratic presidential candidates, including in 2020, when Democrat Joe Biden walloped Trump, 65% to 32%.

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But the issue matters more in states with early Republican primaries — where other candidates could gain momentum toward the Republican nomination if Trump isn’t eligible — or swing states in the general election.

Even so, plenty of Marylanders tried to make their case to the Secretary of State’s office, which provided copies of more than 100 letters and emails for The Baltimore Banner to review in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request. Names and personal information of the letter-writers were redacted to protect their privacy. There were no pro-Trump letters among the documents.

“Please do your duty as a Sworn Office of the Constitution and protect the Constitution from Donald Trump, who overtly and blatantly sought to overthrow our form of government,” one Marylander wrote.

“As the US Constitution mandates, no one should be permitted to be on the ballot who has engaged in an insurrection,” a Silver Spring resident wrote in August. “The time to review if Trump has done just that and is barred from the ballot is now — well before the 2024 election.”

Another plea came a voter in the Eastern Shore community of Preston: “I am imploring you to add your name to the newly created list of Secretary of State officials from other states to insist that Donald Trump IS INELIGIBLE to hold Any office including but not limited to the President of the United States of America according to the 14th amendment Section 3 with or WITHOUT a conviction as soon as possible!”

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Several of the letter writers referenced an Aug. 29 Washington Post opinion column by Jennifer Rubin outlining the 14th Amendment legal argument for disqualifying Trump from the ballot. Others mentioned an Aug. 19 article on the same theme by J. Michael Luttig and Laurence H. Tribe in The Atlantic.

Other letters referenced an analysis by conservative legal scholars that was mentioned heavily in the news in late August.

Some letters appeared to be copy-and-paste form letters, opening by “urging” the secretary of state to take “a formal review of whether Donald Trump is barred from the ballot” and closing with: “Thank you for considering this issue that is vitally important to protecting our Republic.”

But others had original language and thoughts as they beseeched Lee to keep Trump off the ballot.

“I am appalled that this individual has the opportunity to become president again after demonstrating treasonous behavior, both as president and as a private citizen,” wrote one person. They added: “Trump is clearly not qualified to hold any office in our government. That job belongs to an honorable American who respects the language and intent of the Constitution, not a traitor.”

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Wrote another: “I believe it is very important that Donald Trump never gets another chance to destroy America by becoming president.”

Time is of the essence, several people wrote, pressing Lee to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Wrote one resident in late August: “Due to the heightened state of political tension in the country and Mr. Trump’s divisive tactics, I believe that it would be in the national interest to make such a determination as soon as possible.”

“I would ask that you begin to consider this possibility for Maryland now rather than wait for the issue to ripen so that you can be ready to move in Maryland if other States take this position or a court decision finds this amendment applies,” wrote another.

Lee’s office wrote back to letter writers, thanking them for their input. But a couple expressed frustration that she didn’t respond immediately with a determination on Trump’s eligibility one way or the other.

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One of the letters was written by hand: “I am trying to get Donald Trump Declared Invalid for the Maryland Ballot of 2024 under the US 14th Amendment Section 3. I have been calling & emailing about this for the last 2 weeks with no success.”

The primary elections open with early voting starting May 2 and closes with traditional Election Day voting on May 14.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County. 

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