In a groundbreaking decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has disqualified President Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s 2024 ballot.
This decision was based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, stating that, “No person shall… hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath,… as an officer of the United States,… to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Colorado’s decision says that they found Trump’s actions during the Capitol Riots of January 6th engaged in insurrection, which therefore concludes that “President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three; because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Secretary to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.”
This decision reversed a Denver district judge’s prior determination that Section 3 of Amendment 14 did not apply to the presidency. Legal experts and scholars are divided about this decision. Mirroring the public sentiment, Colorado’s Supreme Court was split as well, resulting in a 4-3 decision. In the majority opinion, the Colorado Supreme Court wrote, “We do not reach these conclusions lightly. We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are also cognizant that we travel in uncharted territory, and that this case presents several issues of first impression.”
The dissenting opinion argued that the section of Colorado’s election code under question “was not enacted to decide whether a candidate engaged in insurrection,” and that “Our government cannot deprive someone of the right to hold public office without due process of law… The decision… flies in the face of the due process doctrine.” The opinion reflects the thoughts of people who disapprove of the decision. According to them, Election codes cannot determine if a crime occurred or not. If Trump was not found convicted of insurrection, then the 14th Amendment shouldn’t apply. On the other side, supporters of the decision say that the 14th Amendment is “self-executing.” The amendment doesn’t specify how the judgment of if an insurrection took place should be determined– such as through the court of law or impeachment hearings– just that an elected official can’t engage in an insurrection.
Regardless of the political debate on constitutional interpretation, the decision was slated to be upheld until January 4th, 2024, just one day before Colorado’s deadline to certify the presidential primary ballot. On January 3rd, Trump formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Colorado’s ruling, which the Supreme Court accepted the next day.
The case will be heard on February 8th, nearly a month before the Colorado primary on March 5th.
On December 28th, Maine’s Secretary of State Shenna Bellows disqualified Trump from the primary election using the same constitutional clause. “I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on section 3 of the 14th amendment,” Bellows said. “ I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.” Similar to the events in Colorado, people in disagreement with the decisions are arguing that the decisions reek of election interference, particularly because Bellows is a Democrat, and both Colorado and Maine are Democratic-leaning states. As expected, Trump also appealed Maine’s Secretary of State’s decision on January 2nd. Like the Colorado decision, it will go up to the highest court. Ultimately, that decision will decide the issue nationally. While a ruling or decision cannot be predicted at this time, the US Supreme Court is leaning conservative, including three of the nine justices on the court that were nominated by Trump.
These decisions are poised to significantly impact the 2024 presidential elections, potentially affecting electoral votes even in traditionally left-leaning states such as Maine. For example, Biden won three of Maine’s electoral votes in 2020 and Trump won one.