Trump reinstated on Colorado ballot: Is SCOTUS right?

Mark Reis / The Colorado Sun

Fact Box

  • On March 4, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously, reversing the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, that states cannot remove a presidential candidate from the ballot, as Congress is “responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates.”
  • Under Section 3 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, “Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove” anyone who had engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the government they previously swore to uphold.
  • On January 6, 2021, Trump supporters rallied on the US Capitol “interrupting challenges to Biden Electoral College victory.” Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate on charges of “incitement of insurrection.”
  • Two other states, Maine and Illinois, followed in Colorado's attempt to remove President Trump from the 2024 ballot. Their decisions will be dropped or reversed due to this ruling. 
  • As of March 2024, Trump is currently ahead of President Biden in the polls looking at age, the economy, and immigration.

Andrew (No)

In deciding that former President Trump can not be disqualified, the Supreme Court made the wrong call because the Constitution clearly states that “no person” can serve as a federal officer of the United States after “[being] engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” Through his actions and inactions during the events of January 6th, Trump was engaged in an effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. Trump still denies that he lost the election and claims a cabal of “deep state” figures are conspiring against him. By allowing Trump to behave in this manner and not face the constitutionally described consequences, the Supreme Court is effectively aiding in Trump’s election nonsense and allowing someone who attempted to disrupt the very core principle of our democracy to stand for election again. 

The Republican-backed effort to put this case in front of the Supreme Court relied heavily on the idea that excluding Trump from the Colorado ballots would restrict voters from selecting their candidate of choice. This argument, which has been taken up by respectable outlets such as the New York Times, is nonsensical. Republicans still attach themselves to Trump with ferocious passion whether or not he is eligible for reelection. Rules are rules; when candidates break them, they should be disqualified. Surely, a former president who billed himself as a “law and order president” would understand this. Further, Trump’s removal from the Colorado ballots followed a prescribed legal process.

This ruling sets a bad precedent in that states can no longer enforce the insurrection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. One of the strengths of our election system is that it is decentralized. This ruling takes away an important check on federal power and a safeguard of our democracy. 

Curtice (Yes)

The state of Colorado took it upon itself to remove Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot, citing Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, claiming it was warranted because he engaged in insurrection. Yet, he has not been found guilty or tried for any such crime. With clear political bias, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld that decision.  

The 14th Amendment was a reaction to the Civil War and, in essence, helped establish the terms for restoring the Union following the war. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision was so blatantly politically motivated that even Chief Justice Brian Boatright had to dissent. Whatever one may think of Trump as a person, candidate, or president, the presumption of innocence should still apply in this country.

Nevertheless, SCOTUS, in a 9-0 decision, correctly ruled that, as the presidency is a federal, not state, office, a state cannot disqualify a presidential candidate. In the unanimous decision (including three liberal justices), there is little disagreement among the justices that Colorado acted well beyond its authority in its ruling. The Court correctly noted that allowing states to make their own decisions on this matter would create a patchwork approach that is certainly implausible.

Other states, such as Illinois and Maine, which also have attempted to remove Trump from their respective state ballots, now clearly understand that they do not have the power to do so. Finally, the Court stated Congress would need to enforce the provisions of Section 3 by appropriate legislation. That is not only appropriate but intended. Despite attempts to the contrary, at least in this one instance, laws cannot be inappropriately applied, even if your name is Donald Trump.

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