The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of former President Donald Trump regarding his eligibility for the ballot in Colorado. The case decision by Colorado’s highest court, which found Trump ineligible for the state’s primary ballot based on his involvement in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack.
The controversy is the so-called insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment, a provision enacted after the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from holding public office.
Specifically, the amendment states that individuals who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution and then engage in insurrection are barred from holding office.
The Colorado Supreme Court, in a divided 4-3 decision on December 19, 2023, concluded that Donald Trump’s conduct related to the Capitol attack disqualifies him from serving as president.
This case presents novel questions for the Supreme Court, as it delves into the interpretation and application of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Trump’s legal team argues that the insurrection clause should not apply to the presidency and that the matter of eligibility is within the purview of Congress, not state courts.
Recognizing the urgency of the matter with Tuesday approaching on March 5, the Supreme Court has set a schedule for filings and scheduled oral arguments for February 8.
The outcome of this case may determine whether Donald Trump is eligible for the ballot in Colorado and in all 50 states.
Donald Trump’s campaign expressed confidence that the fair-minded Supreme Court will unanimously affirm the civil rights of President Trump and the voting rights of all Americans.
Donald Trump himself, speaking at a campaign event, addressed the importance of fairness in the legal proceedings.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling is a moment, being the first and only state court to find a presidential candidate ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
The court concluded, in a carefully considered 4-3 decision, that Donald Trump’s actions related to the Capitol attack disqualified him from holding the presidency.
If the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision stands, it would not only prevent millions of voters in Colorado from casting ballots for Trump but could alsoas a template for challenges in other states, disenfranchising tens of millions of voters nationwide.
While Colorado’s decision has been the most consequential thus far, similar challenges have been pursued in over 30 states, although Colorado and Maine are the only two states where such challenges have prevailed.
The Maine Secretary of State also disqualified Trump from the state’s primary ballot, leading to a separate appeal. Other states, including Michigan and Minnesota, have rejected challenges to Trump’s eligibility.
The Supreme Court’s involvement in this case is its role in a presidential election since the contentious Bush v. Gore decision in 2000.
With a conservative majority of 6-3, the court faces the responsibility of interpreting a provision of the 14th Amendment that has never been directly ruled upon.
Justice Clarence Thomas, facing pressure from House Democrats, did not recuse himself from the case despite calls related to his wife’s involvement in the January 6 Stop the Steal rally.
While Democrats argue that Thomas’s impartiality is compromised, the plaintiffs challenging Donald Trump’s eligibility have not sought his recusal.
With Trump set to file his opening brief by January 18 and the Colorado voters challenging his eligibility responding by January 31, the court is compressing the typical briefing schedule.
Public opinion on Donald Trump’s eligibility is divided, with a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll indicating that 46% of U.S. adults believe Trump’s role in the January 6 events should disqualify him from the presidency.
The court’s decision will inevitably against the backdrop of public sentiment and the political discourse surrounding the events of January 6.