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Candidates Weather Challenges to Ballot Filings in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. - It's official: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio will all be on the all-important New Hampshire primary ballot early next year.

The New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission ultimately upheld the Secretary of State's acceptance of each candidate's filings for the primary after challenges were filed against each one's placement on the ballot.

Each ruling was unanimous.

Bernie Sanders' team fought back a challenge from Andy Martin of Manchester, a little-known Republican who has filed to run for president. Martin questioned Sanders' status as a Democrat, since candidates who file for the New Hampshire primary are required to be registered with one of the two major parties. Sanders' home state of Vermont does not have party registration.

Sanders, a long-time independent, told reporters when he filed for the primary on November 5th that he considers himself a Democrat now and that he would run as a Democrat again in future elections. "I'm a Democrat and should be on the ballot, I don't think I need to say too much more," he declared while speaking to reporters that day.

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Martin took issue with Sanders's standing as an independent on the U.S. Senate website and argued that Sanders' Senate biography describes him as "the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history."

"If he had changed his website from 'I-Vt' to 'D-Vt' we wouldn't be here today," Martin said.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon said his office generally takes the candidate's word when a declaration of candidacy is submitted. "We take the declaration of candidacy at face value absent of any information that the information provided on the form is false or grossly inaccurate," he said.

"I think there is an underlying current obviously that when somebody is filing for President of the United States, [it] takes a pretty overwhelming head of stream to deny the New Hampshire voters the opportunity to vote for somebody," said commission chairman Brad Cook.

Julia Barnes, Bernie Sanders' New Hampshire state director, said she wasn't surprised by the outcome of the hearing.

"Obviously the senator has received great support from the Democratic Party and from Democratic voters in the state, so we came into this confident that this was not going to be an issue," she said.

Martin has filed a discretionary appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. It's up to the court to decide whether to accept it.

Donald Trump's challenge came from a well-known member of his own party in New Hampshire, former state Republican Party Chair Fergus Cullen. Cullen told NBC News that he decided to write the challenge on Monday.

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He alleged that Trump needed to provide documentation that he is a registered Republican, claiming that the GOP frontrunner does not adhere to traditional Republican Party values.

"I would argue that Donald Trump is not a Republican," Cullen said at the hearing. "He certainly does not represent the views of the Republican Party. I'm also here to warn that Donald Trump does not share our Democratic values. He is a dangerous demagogue."

Although he is unaffiliated with any campaign, Cullen said he has spoken with the Super PAC supporting John Kasich, New Day For America, which praised Cullen's efforts.

Cullen's challenge was quickly dismissed, however, as Cook noted that Trump is a registered Republican in the state of New York.

"This isn't about whether we like Donald Trump," Cook added. "This commission is not a forum for speeches or electioneering or advancing any other candidate."

Christopher Booth of Concord and Cameron Elliott of Pennsylvania filed challenges against Ted Cruz, alleging that Cruz is not qualified to appear on the primary ballot since they don't believe he is a "natural-born citizen" as the Constitution requires a president to be.

Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother is a U.S. citizen born in Delaware, and his father is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Major Constitutional scholars unanimously agree with Cruz that he meets the Constitutional qualification of being "natural-born."

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Cruz and Marco Rubio also faced a separate challenge from a different individual on the grounds of what a natural born citizen is, but the commission unanimously dismissed that challenge as well.

The New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission is made up of appointees from the governor, the state speaker of the house, and the state senate president.