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U.S. Supreme Court overturns Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to exclude Trump from primary ballot

Last updated on Mar 31, 2024

By Jack Levy, Staff Writer

On Mar. 4, the United States Supreme Court unanimously overturned a decision made by the Colorado Supreme Court, the highest court in the state. This decision would have excluded former President Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot.

The Colorado Court’s decision came on Dec. 19, citing Section three of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution known as the Disqualification Clause, which prevents anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding civil, military or elected office unless they are given approval by two-thirds of Congress. The amendment is also only applicable to those who previously swore an oath to serve in the government and uphold the Constitution.

The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868 and Section three was included to exclude ex-confederates from holding office.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in support of barring Trump from the ballot, making him the first presidential candidate to be made ineligible to hold the office of president under the Disqualification Clause. In their majority opinion, they stated “President Trump incited and encouraged the use of violence and lawless action to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”

Photo credits: Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

After the Colorado court’s decision, Illinois and Maine followed suit and decided to exclude former President Trump from their primary ballots as well.

“It was a bad decision by Colorado,” business administration major Jack Sullivan said. “I think it was more of a statement than a real decision. Their decision was based on Trump committing an insurrection and he’s never been found guilty of that. They probably knew the ruling would be overturned eventually but they wanted to send a message.”

Farmingdale State College computer science major Jacob Smith had a similar opinion.

“I understand Colorado’s decision, but I don’t think it was a good idea,” Smith said. “They should have just arrested him in 2021 if he incited an insurrection but they couldn’t prove it. At this point, I think we’re too close to the election for them to try to remove Trump. Stuff like this just makes both sides more defensive and isolated and the decision was overturned anyway.”

Trump immediately vowed to appeal the decision made by the Colorado Supreme Court after its ruling. Trump’s lawyers argued that while the events of Jan. 6, 2021 were shameful and violent, it was not an insurrection led by Trump.

When the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices unanimously overturned the decision. The court claimed that the Constitution only allows Congress, not states, to enforce Section three of the 14th Amendment against holders of federal offices.

“I think the Supreme Court made the right decision,” Smith said. “If Trump was not on the ballot you’d be angering literally millions of people and whatever anyone thinks about Trump, people should be allowed to cast their vote for him.” 

After the Supreme Court overturned Colorado’s decision, Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social that the court’s ruling was “A BIG WIN FOR AMERICA.”

However, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson disagreed with part of the majority opinion which stated that Congress would need to pass legislation to enforce the Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment. The three Justices stated that this would lead to problems enforcing constitutional provisions.

The Supreme Court’s decision was applicable to all states that removed Trump from the ballot, so Illinois and Maine also reinstated him on their ballots.

Despite this recent victory, Trump is still in the midst of numerous lawsuits including one for his handling of classified documents and civil fraud.

However, Trump is now the last contender for the Republican Party in the race for the White House after former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley suspended her campaign after Super Tuesday. 

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