In a landmark decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday that former President Donald Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot for the 2024 presidential election. The court based its ruling on Trump’s role in inciting the violent attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which it deemed as an act of insurrection and a violation of the oath of office. The ruling is certain to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, setting up a potential constitutional showdown over the power of states to disqualify presidential candidates.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s Decision
The case was brought by a group of Colorado voters who argued that Trump should be barred from the state’s primary ballot because he had “engaged in conduct that demonstrates a lack of the character and fitness required to hold the office of President of the United States.” They cited Trump’s repeated and baseless claims of election fraud, his attempts to pressure state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and his encouragement of his supporters to “fight like hell” and march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs and found that Trump had “committed acts that constitute a breach of the public trust and a violation of his constitutional duties.” The court said that Trump’s actions “undermined the integrity of the electoral process, threatened the peaceful transfer of power, and endangered the lives of members of Congress, the Vice President, and thousands of others.” The court concluded that Trump had “forfeited his right to participate in Colorado’s primary election as a candidate for the office of President of the United States.”
The court acknowledged that its ruling was unprecedented and that the US Constitution does not explicitly grant states the authority to disqualify presidential candidates. However, the court reasoned that the Constitution also does not prohibit states from exercising their “broad and plenary” power to regulate the manner of holding elections, as long as they do not violate any federal laws or constitutional provisions. The court said that its ruling was consistent with the principles of federalism and democracy and that it did not infringe on the rights of Colorado voters or the Republican Party.
The court also noted that its ruling only applied to the primary election, not the general election. The court said that if Trump were to win the Republican nomination, he would still be eligible to appear on the general election ballot in Colorado unless the US Congress or the Electoral College were to reject his candidacy.
Key Takeaways from the Ruling
The ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court is the first of its kind in US history and could have significant implications for the 2024 presidential election and beyond. Here are some of the key takeaways from the ruling:
The plaintiffs believe they have a good chance with the US Supreme Court
The plaintiffs’ attorney, David Lane, said that he was confident that the US Supreme Court would uphold the Colorado court’s decision, as it was based on “solid constitutional grounds.” Lane said that he expected the Trump campaign to appeal the ruling as soon as possible and that he was ready to defend it at the highest level. Lane said that he hoped that other states would follow Colorado’s example and disqualify Trump from their primary ballots as well.
A prominent former conservative federal judge hails the Colorado court’s decision
Michael McConnell, a former judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and a professor at Stanford Law School, praised the Colorado court’s ruling as “courageous and correct.” McConnell, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and is considered a leading conservative legal scholar, said that the ruling was “well-reasoned and well-supported by the facts and the law.” He said that the ruling was not a partisan attack on Trump, but a defense of the rule of law and the Constitution.
The ruling could have a potential impact on the 2024 presidential candidates
The ruling by the Colorado court could affect the dynamics of the 2024 presidential race, especially if other states follow suit and disqualify Trump from their primary ballots. This could reduce Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination, as he would have fewer delegates and less momentum. It could also create an opening for other Republican candidates to challenge Trump and appeal to the voters who are dissatisfied with his conduct and performance. On the other hand, the ruling could also galvanize Trump’s loyal base and motivate them to rally behind him and oppose any attempts to exclude him from the ballot.
Reaction to the Ruling
The ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court has sparked a mixed reaction from various political actors and observers. Here are some of the reactions to the ruling:
The Colorado Secretary of State vows to follow the court’s decision
Jena Griswold, the Democratic Secretary of State of Colorado, said that she respected the court’s decision and that she would implement it accordingly. Griswold said that she was proud of Colorado’s election system and that she would continue to protect the right of every eligible voter to participate in the electoral process. Griswold also said that she hoped that the ruling would deter any future attempts to undermine the integrity of the elections or incite violence against the government.
A GOP senator proposes legislation to prevent states from disqualifying presidential candidates.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and a potential 2024 presidential candidate said that he was outraged by the Colorado court’s ruling and that he would introduce a bill to prohibit states from disqualifying presidential candidates based on their conduct or fitness. Cruz said that the ruling was an “unconstitutional power grab” and a “brazen assault on the will of the people.” He said that the ruling was a “dangerous precedent” that could lead to states banning candidates for arbitrary or political reasons. He said that the decision of who should be president should be left to the voters, not the courts.
The House speaker and other Republicans weigh in
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said that she welcomed the Colorado court’s ruling and that she agreed with its reasoning. Pelosi said that Trump had “disgraced” the office of the presidency and that he had “betrayed” the American people and the Constitution. She said that Trump had “no place” on the ballot or in the White House. On the other hand, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House, said that he disagreed with the ruling and that he supported Trump’s right to run for president. McCarthy said that the ruling was a “political stunt” and a “violation of the First Amendment.” He said that the ruling was an attempt to “silence” the millions of Americans who voted for Trump and that it was “un-American.”
Implications of the Ruling
The ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court is not the final word on Trump’s eligibility to run for president in 2024. The ruling is likely to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, which could either uphold it, reverse it, or decline to hear it. The outcome of the appeal could have significant implications for the 2024 presidential election and the future of American democracy. Here are some of the implications of the ruling:
The appeal process could keep Trump on the ballot in Colorado
The appeal process could take several months or even years to resolve, depending on the speed and the decisions of the lower and higher courts. This means that Trump could still remain on the ballot in Colorado until the final verdict is reached. The Colorado Secretary of State has the authority to certify the primary ballot by Dec. 1, 2023, which is about two months before the primary election on Feb. 6, 2024. If the appeal is still pending by then, the Secretary of State could decide to include Trump on the ballot, subject to the outcome of the appeal. Alternatively, the Secretary of State could decide to exclude Trump from the ballot, but leave a space for him in case the appeal is successful. Either way, the appeal process could create uncertainty and confusion for the voters and the candidates in Colorado.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s reasoning for disqualification could be challenged by the US Supreme Court
The Colorado Supreme Court based its ruling on the premise that states have the power to disqualify presidential candidates based on their conduct and fitness, as long as they do not violate any federal laws or constitutional provisions. However, this premise could be contested by the US Supreme Court, which could argue that states do not have such power and that the Constitution does not allow them to impose additional qualifications or restrictions on presidential candidates. The US Supreme Court could also argue that the Colorado court’s ruling violated Trump’s rights to due process, equal protection, and free speech. The US Supreme Court could also question the Colorado court’s interpretation of Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack and whether it amounted to an act of insurrection and a breach of the oath of office.
The Trump campaign vows to appeal swiftly and fight for his candidacy
The Trump campaign said that it was “shocked and appalled” by the Colorado court’s ruling and that it would appeal it as soon as possible. The campaign said that the ruling was a “flagrant violation of the Constitution and the rule of law” and that it was “part of a coordinated effort by the radical left to stop President Trump from running for office again.” The campaign said that it was confident that the US Supreme Court would overturn the ruling and that it would “defend the rights of President Trump and the millions of Americans who support him.” The campaign also said that it would continue to prepare for the 2024 presidential election and that it would “not let the fake news media or the corrupt courts stop us from making America great again.”