Trump is now a convicted felon. He can still run for president

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Now that a New York jury has convicted former President Donald Trump of all 34 felony charges of falsifying business records, the next obvious question is: Can a convicted felon run for president?

Definitely.

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A further question is more complicated: Could Trump, as a felon, vote for himself? Probably.

Starting with the easy question …

Can a convict run for president?

The US Constitution lays out just three requirements for presidential candidates. They must:

Be a natural born citizen.

Be at least 35 years old.

Have been a US resident for at least 14 years.

Trump meets all three requirements. There is, arguably, another criterion laid out in the 14th Amendment, where it states that no one who has previously taken an oath of office who engages in insurrection can be an officer of the US. But the US Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Congress would have to pass a special law invoking this prohibition. That’s not happening any time soon.

Judge Juan Merchan has scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11, which happens to be four days before the start of the Republican National Convention that is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee.

It is technically possible, although perhaps unlikely for a first-time offender, that Trump could be sentenced to prison time.

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig said most Class E felony convictions, the least serious type of felony in New York, result in non-prison sentences – often a combination of probation, fines and community service.

As a former president, Trump enjoys lifetime Secret Service protection and he will continue to get protection wherever he is, according to Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service.

“Today’s outcome has no bearing on the manner in which the United States Secret Service carries out its protective mission. Our security measures will proceed unchanged,” Guglielmi said in a statement to CNN.

There is also precedent for presidential campaigns, albeit unsuccessful ones, being mounted from prison cells.

Eugene Debs, the Socialist leader, conducted his 1920 presidential campaign from federal prison in Atlanta, where he was serving a 10-year sentence for sedition. He had encouraged Americans to oppose the draft in World War I.

The Supreme Court, in that case, had affirmed his conviction, arguing he was convicted not for opposing the draft but for encouraging people not to comply with it. The decision keeping Debs in jail was written by then-Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes just a few months before Holmes did a famous about-face on free speech that put the US on course for the way we view the First Amendment today.

Thomas Doherty, an American studies professor at Brandeis University, wrote last year about Debs, noting that he remained in prison as votes were cast and counted – he got nearly a million, more than 3% of the vote. Even after the Sedition Act was repealed, Debs was kept in prison. Then-President Woodrow Wilson refused to issue a pardon. Wilson’s successor and Debs’ rival in 1920, Warren G. Harding, later commuted Debs’ sentence in 1921.

And now to the more difficult question …

Can a convicted felon vote?

It depends.

Trump’s right to vote in Florida in November’s election will depend on whether he is sentenced to a term in prison and if he has finished serving that prison sentence by the time of the election.

Each state makes its own rules. Vermont and Maine allow felons to vote from prison. There has been movement in multiple states toward allowing felons on parole to cast ballots.

Trump is now a Florida resident – and Florida voters, in 2018, overwhelmingly backed a referendum to re-enfranchise convicted felons. But Republican lawmakers who control the state’s government first delayed and then qualified the re-enfranchisement by requiring that felons must pay all fines and fees associated with their sentence.

Neil Volz, deputy director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization that works to help re-enfranchise formerly incarcerated people, predicted Trump will have little problem voting since Florida actually defers to the jurisdiction of a felony conviction as to whether a felon can vote. In New York, after a law passed in 2021, any convicted felon who is not incarcerated is eligible to register to vote.

Even if the judge ultimately tried to give Trump prison time, it is highly unlikely that Trump’s right to appeal his conviction would be exhausted before Election Day. If, somehow, Trump was convicted in one of the two federal criminal cases against him before Election Day, that might be another story.

The are other problems for many post-incarceration felons in Florida, as CNN has reported previously, although they would not apply to Trump. For starters, there is no clearinghouse of data about what fees are required. It has led to confusion and kept many people from voting.

“There are still a lot of people who are confused about their eligibility, and that’s why we continue to work with the state and the election professionals to fix the system,” Volz told me. “Because people need to know whether they’re eligible or not on the front end of the process.”

Volz said his group is making progress with the state to make it much easier for people to confirm their eligibility.

CNN

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