Lawsuit argues 14th Amendment eliminates Donald Trump from presidential primary ballot

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Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally, July 7, 2023, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Charlie Riedel | AP

A group of Colorado voters filed a lawsuit Wednesday to prohibit former President Donald Trump from appearing on the Republican presidential primary ballot in the state.

The 115-page complaint alleges Trump shouldn’t be allowed to run for the 2024 Republican nomination for president under a clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Known as the disqualification clause, it states anyone who took an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” cannot hold a state or federal office.

The 14th Amendment was passed by the Senate in 1866 and ratified in 1868 to provide civil rights for freed slaves. The clause prevents military officers who served in the Confederacy from serving in any public office. In 1872, a supermajority of each chamber of Congress voted to remove the clause.

Earlier this week, Maine officials announced they were looking at the 14th Amendment to prevent a candidate from holding elected office, but didn’t mention Trump in a statement.

Six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters – including former elected officials – represented by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed the lawsuit, according to a media release from the organization. The respondents in the case are Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Trump.

“I look forward to the Colorado Court’s substantive resolution of the issues, and am hopeful that this case will provide guidance to election officials on Trump’s eligibility as a candidate for office,” Griswold said in a statement.

Griswold’s office said Colorado law “is unclear on how to consider the requirements of the United States Constitution in determining whether a candidate is eligible for office, including the language of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.”

No candidates have yet qualified for the 2024 presidential primary ballot in Colorado.

Trump, who holds a substantial lead in most polls over all other Republicans running for president, has been indicted in four criminal cases in the last few months.

The Colorado lawsuit alleges Trump “engaged in” an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, by knowingly and voluntarily aiding and inciting the insurrection before the event. Trump’s campaign website didn’t post an immediate response to the litigation. 

“Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election,” Trump said in a post Monday on the social media site Truth Social.

One of the lawsuit’s petitioners, Krista Kafer, a Republican and newspaper columnist in Colorado, said in a statement Trump “disqualified himself from running in 2024 by spreading lies, vilifying election workers, and fomenting an attack on the Capitol.”

“Those who by force and by falsehood subvert democracy are unfit to participate in it. That’s why I am part of this lawsuit to prevent an insurrectionist from appearing on Colorado’s ballot,” she said.

Colorado successfully kept someone off the ballot for president in 2012. Abdul Karim Hassan, a naturalized citizen, unsuccessfully argued before Judge Neil Gorsuch, now a U.S. Supreme Court justice, he was discriminated against because he didn’t meet the requirement of being a natural-born citizen.

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.