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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Mathieu

Colorado Supreme Court Bars Trump from the Ballot


an empty Colorado Supreme Court chamber, the location of the case that removed Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot in Colorado

In light of Donald Trump's purported role in the January 6 insurrection, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled to remove him from the 2024 presidential ballot (Greg O'Beirne, Wikimedia Commons)


On December 19, a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court was released detailing their decision that Donald Trump cannot be a presidential nominee in the upcoming 2024 election. Although long-term effects seem to be curbed, a section of the Republican party reacted with anger and threats towards the justices.


The Ruling


The 4-3 ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified Donald J. Trump from future ballots in the state. While Trump is not the only nominee who could be similarly removed from the ballot, he is the most well-known across the nation. The decision was made based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Originally used to restrict confederates from holding office after the Civil War, the amendment says no person who has taken an oath as an officer of the United States to support the Constitution can hold any office if they have engaged in an insurrection or rebellion. No presidential candidate has ever been disqualified based on this part of the amendment until present day. Even so, the justices pointed to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, declaring that there is “no question” that Trump supported a rebellion.


While a report released last year recommended four criminal referrals for former President Trump, a criminal conviction is not necessary for the amendment to apply. At this time Trump has not been charged, although special council Jack Smith is bringing a case regarding election interference scheduled for March of this year.


Attention has now turned toward the Supreme Court, where this case is soon headed. The four  Colorado justices in favor of Trump’s removal stuck to the principles of textualism, originalism, and federalism. They deemed that the writing of the Constitution dictates that any officer who after taking an oath incites a rebellion shall hold any office means as it says. They argue that there is little to no question in the wording of this section. Furthermore, they used the amendment almost exactly as was done following the Civil War. This is only striking to some because these principles are often cited by the conservative justices expected to reject Colorado’s ruling.


While based on the Constitution, the Colorado decision only applies within Colorado, a state where all justices have been appointed by Democratic governors. Even so, there have been lawsuits in more than 25 states challenging Trump’s candidacy.


The Dissent


The three justices who voted against the majority opinion all wrote different opinions. Each found separate sections of the opinion that were concerning and therefore did not deny Trump a spot on the ballot. Justice Brian Boatright argued that the Colorado Supreme Court does not have the power to decide if an individual engaged in insurrection. Because of the scope of the case, he believes the case should have been dismissed. Justice Carlos Samour focused on the lack of trial for former President Trump. He believes that declaring Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to be self-executing goes against his belief in due process. Without a formal trial deciding that Trump engaged in an insurrection, he stated, it is not right for them to invoke this amendment. Finally, Justice Maria Berkenkotter dissented on the principle that the Colorado Election Code does not limit the courts’ power. She believes the courts are giving themselves too much power with this decision.


Political Responses


Very little reaction from Democrats was seen following the decision; most have little hope for the continuation of this ruling. Even if the appellate court affirms Colorado’s ruling, it will not be executed soon enough to make a difference in this election cycle. With worry about the 2024 election increasing, little energy was put into investigating the lasting effects of this case. That being said, those in other states following similar cases found hope in the possibility displayed by this decision.


On the other hand, Republican reaction to the decision has been distinctly negative. They believe that keeping Trump from the ballot is undemocratic and should not be allowed. They argue that for there to be a fair and free election, any candidate should be allowed to run and the people decide their merits. While some Republicans made their point through commentary like that described above, some resorted to a more violent form of communication. On various platforms, including Trump’s social media platform Truth Social, private information about the justices was leaked. Emails, phone numbers, and addresses were followed by death threats. These threats follow a pattern seen in recent years in which public figures are harassed or threatened in the aftermath of legal developments against Trump, causing great concern for those doing their jobs in the U.S. legal system.


Effects on the 2024 Election


While the Colorado Secretary of State was ordered to remove Trump’s name from the ballot, a hold was placed on the decision. The candidates for the March 5 presidential primary must be certified by January 5, 2024, but the court has declared this hold will stay in place past the certification date if Trump asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review it. Members of the Trump campaign have made clear that the ruling will be challenged before this date, so Trump will most likely remain on the ballot this cycle.

It is almost certain that the case will soon arrive at the Supreme Court. Paired with another election case soon to reach the court, it is unclear what the new ruling will be. The second case, focused on Trump’s immunity from federal crimes related to overturning the 2020 election, should reach the Supreme Court around the same time as this one, and they are assumed to be decided based on one another.


 

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