Supreme Court Rules States Cannot Kick Trump Off Ballot

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The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that states cannot remove former President Donald Trump from the 2024 election ballot, overturning a Colorado court ruling that said he was ineligible to run for office because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack.

The high-stakes decision in Trump v. Anderson, issued without the customary session in the courtroom, comes just a day before Colorado voters are poised to cast their ballots during the Super Tuesday primaries. At the heart of the dispute was the Colorado supreme court's ruling in December, which found Trump ineligible to run based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, barring individuals who engaged in insurrection from holding office. Trump appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the state’s decision would disenfranchise millions of voters and could plunge the electoral process into disarray if other states followed suit.

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion says. “But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency.” The Supreme Court did not weigh in on whether Trump had engaged in an insurrection.

Trump wrote on his social media platform that the ruling marked a “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who controls the state’s ballot access, wrote on social media that she is “disappointed” in the court’s decision to not allow states to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment for federal candidates. “Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot,” she wrote.

Legal experts noted the significance of the Supreme Court's direct involvement in a presidential contest, drawing parallels to the landmark Bush v. Gore case of 2000. The ruling is expected to not only impact Trump's candidacy in Colorado but also set a precedent for similar challenges in other states, including Maine and Illinois, where his eligibility has been questioned.

In the lead-up to Monday's decision, the Justices appeared inclined to uphold Trump's right to appear on the ballot, citing concerns over the potential disruption to the electoral process. During oral arguments, a broad consensus emerged across ideological lines, with liberal and conservative Justices expressing apprehension about the implications of barring a candidate who had garnered significant support from voters.

“The result could well be that a single candidate would be declared ineligible in some States, but not others, based on the same conduct,” the Justices wrote in their opinion. “Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos—arriving at any time or different times, up to and perhaps beyond the Inauguration.”

All nine Justices agreed with the Trump v. Anderson decision. The three liberal Justices wrote a concurring opinion—disagreeing that disqualification for insurrection can only occur when Congress passes a certain type of legislation—as did Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who also took issue with the question of whether congressional legislation would be the only way to enforce Section 3.

“Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up,” Barrett wrote. “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.”

While Monday’s decision settles one key question around Trump’s eligibility for the presidency, the nation’s highest court will soon hear another case about the controversial 45th President. In April, they will consider a separate case about whether he’s immune from prosecution for election-related charges.

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