US Supreme Court keeps Trump on Colorado election ballot News
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US Supreme Court keeps Trump on Colorado election ballot

The US Supreme Court struck down Colorado’s attempt to bar Donald Trump from appearing on its election ballot on Monday. In a unanimous per curiam decision, the court reversed a Supreme Court of Colorado decision that barred the former president from seeking election in the state due to an alleged violation of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, more commonly known as the insurrection clause. In doing so, the court held that states may not prohibit individuals from “holding or attempting to hold” federal offices.

The opinion avoided Trump’s alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot and instead centered on the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment and its sections. The court noted how Sections 1, 3 and 5 are constructed to limit state autonomy and favor federal power over federal elections.

Section 1 prohibits states from “depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or “deny[ing] to any person … the equal protection of the laws.” Section 3, the insurrection clause, was drafted to prevent hostile state legislatures from advancing pro-Confederate candidates for federal office in the wake of the US Civil War. Finally, the justices focused on Section 5 that expressly empowers Congress to carry out the Amendment in “good faith.” This included the disqualification of federal election candidates.

Given the court’s understanding of the limiting power of the Amendment, the court asserted that states lack the power to enforce the insurrection clause against federal candidates. It stated, “federal officers owe their existence and functions to the united voice of the whole, not of a portion, of the people,” and no one state may determine a federal election or its procedures for another. However, the court held that states may bar state-level candidates from running for state offices.

Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Jackson issued a concurring opinion in which they agreed with the court’s judgment but stated their opposition to the total prohibition of states ever using the insurrection clause to remove federal candidates. They said that the ruling “goes beyond the necessities of this case” and strayed from the issue of “whether an individual State may keep a Presidential candidate found to have engaged in insurrection off its ballot.” In pointed language, the three justices stated, “[i]n a sensitive case crying out for judicial restraint, it abandons that course.” Adding, the majority was “attempt[ing] to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding office.”

Sotomayor, Kagan and Jackson compared the current opinion to the 2022¬†decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. There, the court was tasked to determine the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. However, the ruling completely eliminated the federal right to abortion in what several justices called a “gross overreach.” Chief Justice John Roberts, who concurred in the judgment, stated, “[i]f it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more.” Roberts sided with the majority to eliminate Section 3 availability to states.¬†

Trump reacted to the decision on his social media platform, Truth Social. He stated that this was a “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed disappointment in the ruling. She said that the decision “stripp[ed] states of the authority to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment for federal candidates” and that “Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot.”

The ruling places Trump on Colorado’s primary election ballot. The state’s primary presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday.

Maine and Illinois previously removed Trump from their state ballots but stayed the rulings pending an outcome from Colorado’s Supreme Court case. The states now must decide on whether to reinstate Trump as a candidate. Nearly half of states have active, pending or dismissed litigation regarding Trump’s removal from state election ballots.