Supreme Court rules unanimously for Trump in Colorado ballot disqualification dispute

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The U.S. Supreme Court sided unanimously with former President Trump in his challenge to the state of Colorado’s attempt to kick him off the 2024 primary ballot. 

All nine justices ruled in favor of Trump in the case, which will impact the status of efforts in several other states to remove the likely GOP nominee from their respective ballots. 

The court considered for the first time the meaning and reach of Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office again. Challenges have been filed to remove Trump from the 2024 ballot in over 30 states. 

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the Court wrote.

READ THE RULING BELOW. APP USERS: CLICK HERE.

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Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold issued a statement Monday on the opinion saying, “The United States Supreme Court has ruled that states do not have the authority to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment for federal candidates.”

“In accordance with this decision, Donald Trump is an eligible candidate on Colorado’s 2024 Presidential Primary,” she said. 

Trump reacted to the ruling in a post on Truth Social saying, “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

The state of Colorado had argued that because they determined Trump’s behavior related to 2020 election interference – culminating with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots – amounted to an “insurrection,” he should be removed from the state’s ballot. 

The Supreme Court, however, said, “state enforcement of Section 3 with respect to the Presidency would raise heightened concerns.”

“Conflicting state outcomes concerning the same candidate could result not just from differing views of the merits, but from variations in state law governing the proceedings that are necessary to make Section 3 disqualification determinations,” the opinion states. 

“The result could well be that a single candidate would be declared ineligible in some States, but not others, based on the same conduct (and perhaps even the same factual record).”

“The ‘patchwork’ that would likely result from state enforcement would ‘sever the direct link that the Framers found so critical between the National Government and the people of the United States’ as a whole,” the opinion says.

“The disruption would be all the more acute — and could nullify the votes of millions and change the election result — if Section 3 enforcement were attempted after the Nation has voted,” it says. 

Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos — arriving at any time or different times, up to and perhaps beyond the Inauguration,” it continues. 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a concurring opinion wrote, “The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election.”

“Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up. For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home,” she said. 

In more than two hours of spirited, often tense arguments last month, the nine justices asked tough questions of both sides about whether the president or a presidential candidate is exempt from the constitutional provision adopted after the Civil War.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh spoke for colleagues when saying they were confronting “difficult questions.”

Former President Donald Trump in New Hampshire

Former U.S. President Donald Trump points to supporters at the conclusion of a campaign rally at the Atkinson Country Club on Jan. 16, 2024, in Atkinson, New Hampshire. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

“When you look at Section 3, the term insurrection jumps out,” Kavanaugh said. “And the questions are, what does that mean? How do you define it? Who decides? Who decides whether someone engaged in it?” 

Kavanaugh noted the courts looked at these questions in an 1869 decision, known as “Griffin’s case,” which found that an act of Congress was necessary to enforce the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists holding federal office.

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Supreme Court Justices hear arguments from Trump attorney Jonathan Mitchell.  (William J. Hennessy, Jr.)

“These are difficult questions, and you look right at Section 5 of the 14th Amendment … and that tells you Congress has the primary role here,” Kavanaugh said. “I think what’s different is the processes, the definition, who decides questions really jump out at you when you look at Section 3.”

Chief Justice John Roberts questioned Colorado’s attorney Jason Murray about the “consequences” of the state’s position. 

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“What do you do with consequences of your position? There will be disqualification proceedings on the other side, and some will succeed in very quick order, I would expect that a goodly number of states will say whoever the Democrat is, you’re off the ballot,” he said. “It would then come down to a small number of states deciding the election. That’s a pretty severe consequence.”

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Justice Samuel Alito pressed Murray to “grapple” with what some people have seen as the consequences of the argument that you’re advancing, which is that there will be conflicts in decisions among the states.”

“The different states will disqualify different candidates. But I’m not getting a whole lot of help from you about how this would not be an unmanageable situation,” Alito said.  

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