Is Bernie Sanders eligible to run in New Hampshire?

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders normally emphasizes the fact that he has never won an election as a Democratic nominee, but a state law in New Hampshire might make the candidate regret his past political independence. 

Brian Snyder/Reuters
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally outside the New Hampshire State House in Concord, New Hampshire November 5, 2015. Sanders held the rally after filing his declaration of candidacy to appear on the New Hampshire primary election ballot.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders filed for the Democratic primary ballot in New Hampshire last week, but his past as a political independent may spell trouble for the 2016 presidential candidate.

To run in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, a crucial race for presidential hopefuls, candidates must be a “registered Democrat,” and Senator Sanders has always run for office as an Independent.

“I am running in the Democratic primary process,” Mr. Sanders told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday. “I am now a Democrat.” 

A complaint filed Thursday claims that Sanders is ineligible to run in the New Hampshire Democratic primary because he has never been elected as a Democrat. New Hampshire’s Ballot Law Commission, a five-member committee that rules on eligibility questions, will examine the complaint on Nov. 24.

But the Sanders campaign insists that the Vermont senator holds all necessary requirements to run in the race, and they are confident that the issue will be put to rest shortly.

On Oct. 7, Raymond Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman, wrote a letter to the Secretary Gardner on behalf of Sanders.

“The New Hampshire Democratic Party considers Senator Bernie Sanders to be a member of the Democratic Party and supports the placement of his name into nomination as a Democratic candidate for president in the 2016 New Hampshire Primary,” wrote Buckley.

And, Buckley accompanied Sanders last Thursday when he filed the necessary papers with New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner. 

“I will be with Sen. Sanders when he files in case there is any discussion to handle it right then and there,” Buckley told NHPR last week. There was none, and Sanders signed up for the primary and left the Secretary’s offices to chants of "Feel the Bern."

Sanders’ campaign argues that the Senator could not have run for election as a Democrat in the state of Vermont even if he wanted to, because his home state does not register voters by party.

But critics say they have a reasonable challenge to Bernie’s candidacy.

CNN reported that Andy Martin was the critic who filed a formal complaint against Bernie Thursday, and described him as a conservative activist best known for starting the rumor that President Obama was actually a Muslim.

“Mr. Sanders claims that he can run as a Democrat in New Hampshire ‘because there is no party registration in Vermont.’ The claim is a complete red herring,” Mr. Martin writes in the complaint.

“Sanders is not a member of the party he is choosing to lead, and that’s awkward,” Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, told the Wall Street Journal. “What appeal is there for an activist who has spent 30 years punching signs in New Hampshire snow banks for Democrats when he is not a member of that party?” 

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