Oct 31, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump’s presidential ballot eligibility on trial in Colorado and Minnesota

Trump at a rally with a hand outstretched pointing off camera. A sign in the background says "make America great again" in all caps with American flags.

Former President Trump at a campaign event at the Orpheum Theater on Oct. 29 in Sioux City, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Two courts this week are debating whether former President Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, should be kept off their state ballots.

The big picture: Trump's involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, through the lens of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause, is being scrutinized during a hearing in a Denver court and oral arguments in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

  • Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states that no one should hold office in the U.S. if they "have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [U.S.], or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."
  • Six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters, represented by watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and law firms, filed a lawsuit in September to block Trump from the state's primary ballot.

The latest: A trial in Denver began on Monday to determine if Trump is eligible to be on the 2024 Colorado primary ballot.

  • The trial is expected to last one week, per CNN, and the judge plans to issue a decision by Thanksgiving to allow time for appeals by the start of the 2024 primary.

Zoom in: Eric Olson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, argued in his opening statement that Trump engaged in an insurrection, the New York Times reported.

  • "We are here because Trump claims, after all that, he has the right to be president again," he said. "But our Constitution, our shared charter of our nation, says he cannot do so."
  • Trump's attorney, Scott Gessler, said Trump never called for violence and that denying his candidacy would be "anti-democratic," per the NYT.

What's next: A lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Free Speech for People is set to begin in the Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday.

  • This hearing, to determine if Trump can appear on the state's primary ballot, is expected to be smaller than the one in Denver, per ABC News.

Between the lines: It's not the first time the 14th Amendment has come into focus in an effort to disqualify Trump's 2024 bid.

  • State election officials previously questioned whether the former president's alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his role in the Capitol riot are enough to disqualify him through the Civil War-era amendment.
  • The 14th Amendment is now being used in both the Colorado and Minnesota cases in arguments to keep Trump – who is awaiting trial in four criminal indictments – off the ballots.

How it works: Secretaries of State are in charge of monitoring candidates' qualifications and their eligibility to appear on a ballot for state or federal office.

  • As such, efforts to use the Civil War-era amendment to disqualify Trump would play out on a state level.

Yes, but the Constitution doesn't lay out how to enforce the provision in disqualifying a candidate.

  • It's only been used twice since the late 1800s, per CNN.

Of note: A group of Georgia voters unsuccessfully filed a legal challenge last year, arguing that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was "constitutionally disqualified from congressional office" for her involvement in the Capitol riot since she violated the 14th Amendment.

Meanwhile, convicted Jan. 6 rioter Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner, was removed from office and disqualified from serving ever again because of his participation in the insurrection, through a 14th Amendment argument.

Go deeper: States look to see if 14th Amendment can be used to disqualify Trump — but it has risks

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Eric Olson is a lawyer for the plaintiffs, not for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

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