quotes Supreme Court of Colorado barring Trump from appearing on the state’s ballot

26 December 2023
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Updated 26 December 2023

Supreme Court of Colorado barring Trump from appearing on the state’s ballot

The decision by four Colorado Supreme Court judges to prevent former president Donald Trump from having his name appear on the state presidential primary ballot is a very important development that will upset the race for the US presidential race in 2024. It will have critical implications for the role of law in American life and how American democracy functions and operates. It is also related to many legal challenges that Trump confronts. Litigation efforts are going on in 13 American states.

Similarly, in Maine, state law calls on the secretary of state to debate the merits of those who wish their names to be on the ballots or simply to contest elections. A declaration may be issued from Maine soon regarding Trump’s eligibility to run for the presidency and have people vote for him in that state.

In early December, a court in Arizona rejected Trump’s disqualification from having his name printed on that state’s ballot. The court cited the US Constitution as giving grounds to Trump to run again for president. In Minnesota, a lawsuit challenging Trump’s candidacy was thrown out since the court defined the role of political parties as the only and exclusive political organizations that have the power to select which candidates can run for office. In Michigan, a court ruling objected to the removal of Trump's name from the ballots, citing the fact that only Congress can apply and uphold what is known as “the insurrection clause.”

In fact, the insurrection clause is the crux of the matter in this political controversy. After the American Civil War (April 1861-May 1865) ended, Congress ratified section three of the 14th amendment to keep secessionists from holding office again in the US. Parts of it reads as the following:

“No person shall ... hold any office, civil or military, under the US ... who, having previously taken an oath ... as an officer of the US ... to support the Constitution of the US, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” Of course, the passing of such a law was meant to ensure loyalty to the American government and people. The secessionists were the political leaders and parties who wanted to break away from the US government to keep and preserve the system and the practice of slavery.

According to Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University and head of the National Constitution Center: “The Colorado Court’s decision isn’t formally binding in other states, but its reasoning may influence them. Nevertheless, once the Supreme Court weighs in, it will settle any disagreements that emerge among the lower courts one way or the other.”

On the other hand, a counterargument can be provided. America has a federal system of government. Federalism is the distribution of power geographically. Therefore, Colorado’s punishing of Trump will have a limited impact on the US presidential elections in 2024. Why? The reason is found not in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution but in the peculiar laws of the State of Colorado. According to section 1-1-113 of Colorado’s election law, a judge from a district court has the right and the authority to stop a candidate from running for an office based on the fact that he or she, “has committed or is about to commit a breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act.”

Trump’s lawyers are challenging the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling. They are soliciting the opinions of the three dissenting judges on the Colorado Supreme Court. One of them doubted that any law issued in the State of Colorado “authorizes Colorado courts to decide whether a presidential primary candidate is disqualified” because that type of legal reasoning is an “approach (that) seems to have no discernible limits.”

Other opinions stated that the Colorado law did not specify insurrection as a cause for disqualifying a certain candidate from running for an office. Another objecting view is that penalizing Trump is a denial of his right to due process. Essentially, the due process right, proclaimed by the 14th Amendment, guarantees that the government, whether federal, state, county, city, or town, must not confiscate a person’s basic rights to “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This suggests that the judiciary branch as a branch of the US Government has been unfair and biased against Trump.

The 14th Amendment insurrection clauses did not stop thousands of Southern officials from filling in governmental posts and offices in the US despite the fact that most, if not all of them, supported the secession of the Southern states from the Union. Furthermore, the insurrection referred to in the 14th Amendment concerned a war that was very bloody and lasted for four years, and led to the killings of hundreds of thousands of Americans. The protest on Jan. 6, 2021, was very small in scale compared to the insurrection of the American Civil War.

Trump’s strategy will not be to wait for a Supreme Court ruling to decide in his favor. He appointed three out of nine of its judges. He feels secure about the US Supreme Court overturning the Colorado Supreme Court decision. Yet, he will mobilize his political base domestically to contest the possibility or the likelihood of states barring his candidacy for US president. This is the type of grassroots effort that Trump is good at utilizing and using for his advantage. It could actually strengthen his allegations that the US election in 2020 was rigged. He will stoke the fears of the American people that the courts are staffed with elitist liberal and left-leaning judges who cannot relate to the concerns of the average American. Ultimately, Trump could be the real and sole winner of Colorado’s Supreme Court’s decision despite his initial loss.

• Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst.

X: @Mr_Alshammeri