In a stunning development, the Colorado Supreme Court declared on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump is barred from participating in the state’s primary election next year, citing constitutional grounds. This unprecedented decision, arising from a lawsuit focused on a relatively obscure provision in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, distinguishes itself from unsuccessful challenges in other states.
The ruling asserted, “A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” It emphasized that listing Trump as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot would constitute a wrongful act under the Election Code.
The court explicitly instructed Secretary of State Jena Griswold not to include Trump’s name on the 2024 presidential primary ballot and not to count any write-in votes for him. However, the decision is temporarily on hold until January 4, allowing for potential appeals. If the matter reaches the U.S. Supreme Court before that date, the pause will persist, and Colorado will be obligated to include Trump’s name on the primary ballot pending Supreme Court action.
In response, Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, criticized the ruling, signaling an impending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cheung accused the Colorado Supreme Court of partisan bias and interference in the election process.
The GOP presidential primary in Colorado is slated for March 5. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, denounced the ruling as an assault on the nation’s democracy, expressing confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the decision.
Despite Trump dismissing efforts to exclude him from the ballot as “nonsense” and “election interference,” he made no mention of the Colorado decision during a campaign speech in Iowa on Tuesday night. In their 4-3 decision, the Colorado judges acknowledged the gravity of their conclusions, emphasizing their duty to apply the law impartially and recognizing the uncharted territory of the legal challenges before them.
The lawsuit, initiated on behalf of six Colorado voters by the left-leaning government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, along with two law firms, has resulted in a landmark decision according to Noah Bookbinder, the group’s president. Bookbinder emphasized the historical significance of the ruling, describing it as not only justified but essential for safeguarding the future of democracy in the country.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s verdict overturns a previous ruling by a lower court, which asserted that Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, constituted insurrection but contended that presidents are exempt from Section 3 of the 14th Amendment as they are not considered “officers of the United States.”
While the majority of the state Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s determination that Trump incited insurrection, it disagreed with the assertion that the president is not considered an officer of the nation. The ruling highlighted Trump’s encouragement of violence and lawless actions to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, emphasizing the unmistakable nature of his messages to supporters.
In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Brian Boatright focused on the absence of any criminal conviction against the former president, arguing that without an insurrection-related conviction, disqualifying a candidate under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is not a valid cause of action under Colorado’s election code.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, originating from the Civil War era, outlines that individuals who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, after having taken an oath as an officer, are barred from holding any civil or military office under the country.
Similar efforts to prevent Trump from appearing on the ballot in Arizona, Michigan, and Minnesota have been unsuccessful in the courts. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced that the Republican Party will support Trump in his legal battle, expressing intent to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Colorado Republican Party has also begun fundraising in response to the court’s decision, seeking support to preserve Trump’s presence on the ballot and combat what they label as election interference.