Bernie Sanders Plans to Get On The New Hampshire Ballot Today Might Be Tricky

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders set to declare himself a Democrat.

ByABC News
November 5, 2015, 5:15 AM

— -- MANCHESTER, NH – This afternoon, the longest-serving independent in Congress, Bernie Sanders, will declare himself a “Democrat” in order to appear on the New Hampshire primary ballot.

Like many other presidential candidates this week, Sanders plans make an official stop at New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office to file his ‘Declaration of Candidacy’ form for the first primary in the nation.

So far, the fact that an independent has been running for the Democratic Party’s nomination has only created linguistic challenges for journalists, but there remains a slim chance that it could create ballot challenges for the progressive superstar during the party primary process too. The New Hampshire ‘Declaration of Candidacy’ form requires candidates to fill in this ominous blank: “I am a registered member of the ___________________ party.”

The Sanders campaign confirmed to ABC News that Sanders will write in “Democrat” on the form. It also brushed aside any concerns over potential ballot challenges. “We have the support of the state party, the national party...and I don't think we'd see a scenario where he would not get on the ballot,” Sanders New Hampshire State Director Julia Barnes told ABC News.

The question is now: will New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner accept the form from Sanders? Most people involved in the state primary process agree that a real challenge to Sanders campaign is unlikely, but Gardner and his staff so far have been unwilling to say outright that Sanders is in the clear. “We have only two legal parties in New Hampshire,” Gardner told CNN back in April. “The primary is only for those legal parties… If they're going to run in the primary, they have to be a registered member of the party.”

A representative from Gardner’s office told ABC News last month that the Vermont Senator is welcome to file as a Democrat, but that he could still face an outside challenge. “We'll accept [the filing] at face value...but all filings are subject to a challenge from anybody,” the staff member hedged. If in fact his party status was tested, the New Hampshire State Ballot Commission would consider a challenge at its next meeting on Nov. 24, issuing a decision shortly thereafter -- a decision that could have drastic ramifications on the a democratic race.

The New Hampshire requirement that all candidates must be registered with a party, might have been a challenge for Sanders even if he had not spent his political career as an independent, because is no party registration in the state of Vermont. That said, Vermont has already confirmed that their Senator will be on its 2016 Democratic primary ballot.

During an interview on MSNBC last night, Sanders’s senior strategist Tad Devine tried to walk a fine line saying both that Sanders remained an independent, but was running as a Democrat.

“In this campaign, he decided to run for the Democratic Party nomination. He’s running as a Democrat,” Devine said.

When MSNBC host Chris Matthews pressed Devine if that meant Sanders was a Democrat, Devine said, “Yes.” However, Devine then quickly when on to say that Sanders had not switched parties, but instead was unable to register for a party in Vermont.

In preparation for any potential issues Thursday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Chairman Raymond Buckley said he plans to accompany Sanders to the state capitol for the filing and will be bringing with him a stack of legal documents in case he needs to lobby on behalf of Sanders. Buckley would not say whether the Sanders campaign requested his presence.