In a move that could trigger an unprecedented legal showdown, former President Trump has called on the Supreme Court to overturn a pivotal decision by a Colorado court that disqualified him from the state’s 2024 Republican primary ballot under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection ban.
Trump’s legal team argues that the Colorado Supreme Court overstepped its authority by denying him access to the ballot and contends that the court misinterpreted and misapplied Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. In their petition to the Supreme Court, they assert, “The Colorado Supreme Court has no authority to deny President Trump access to the ballot. By doing so, the Colorado Supreme Court has usurped Congressional authority and misinterpreted and misapplied the text of section 3.”
The crux of the matter lies in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a clause implemented in the aftermath of the Civil War. This provision prohibits individuals who have sworn an oath to “support” the U.S. Constitution but have “engaged in insurrection” against it from holding federal office. The Supreme Court has never before ruled on this specific section, setting the stage for an extraordinary legal battle.
The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision in December, determined that Trump’s actions, including inflaming his supporters with unfounded claims of election fraud and directing them to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, amounted to insurrection. Consequently, the court barred him from appearing on the state’s primary ballot as he pursues a second term in the White House.
The state court’s ruling also overturned a trial judge’s finding that the 14th Amendment didn’t apply to the presidency, emphasizing that the language of the presidential oath “does not make it anything other than an oath to support the Constitution.” The majority opinion stated, “We do not reach these conclusions lightly. We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us.”
Trump’s legal team, in their petition to the Supreme Court, emphasized the historical significance of the case: “If allowed to stand, the ruling will mark the first time in the history of the United States that the judiciary has prevented voters from casting ballots for the leading major-party presidential candidate.”
Despite the Colorado court putting its ruling on hold until a specified date to allow Trump to seek Supreme Court review, the looming deadline for finalizing Colorado’s presidential primary ballots poses a challenge. With the deadline approaching and the legal process likely extending beyond it, Trump’s name is expected to appear on the primary ballots regardless.
While the immediate impact may be limited to Colorado’s primary, any decision by the Supreme Court could reverberate through the upcoming general election in November, affecting Trump’s candidacy not only in Colorado but potentially in states nationwide.
In response to the legal developments, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung accused adversaries, including the Colorado Supreme Court and the left-wing activist group CREW, of attempting to disenfranchise voters. Cheung stated, “Crooked Joe Biden’s comrades, including the Colorado Supreme Court and CREW, a radical, left-wing activist group, are doing all they can to disenfranchise all American voters by attempting to remove President Trump, the leading candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election, from the primary ballot.”
Adding another layer to the legal saga, the Colorado Republican Party separately appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, asserting that allowing the state court’s decision to stand would distort the 2024 race and result in “nebulous accusations of insurrection.” While the plaintiffs and the Colorado secretary of state agree that the high court should consider the case, they propose focusing on a narrower set of issues.
Similar legal battles have unfolded in other states, including Michigan and Minnesota, where attempts to remove Trump’s name from state ballots have mostly been unsuccessful. However, the landscape shifted at the turn of the year when Maine became the second state to disqualify Trump from its Republican primary ballots. Trump promptly appealed the decision to state court, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court involvement in the weeks ahead.
In Maine, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, cited the weight of evidence in her decision, asserting that Trump was aware of the consequences of his prolonged effort to undermine the democratic election and chose to ignite the turmoil: “The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr. Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multi-month effort to delegitimize a democratic election, and then chose to light a match.”
As the legal battles unfold across multiple states, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Colorado case could shape the trajectory of Trump’s political future, influencing both his immediate presence on primary ballots and his viability as a major-party candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election.