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Supreme Court looks poised to return Trump to Colorado ballot

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In a historic oral argument, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared likely to overturn a state supreme court ruling barring former President Donald Trump from its primary ballot.

No U.S. court had ever issued such a decision, but in December the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Trump – the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination – is disqualified by Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That provision, adopted in the Civil War’s aftermath, holds that no one who “engages in insurrection” against the United States can hold public office.

Why We Wrote This

Can a Civil War-era provision barring insurrectionists from public office mean Donald Trump can be removed from presidential ballots? The U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical during oral argument – and concerned more about the future than about the past.

The case argued today, Trump v. Anderson, poses a simple question: Did the Colorado Supreme Court err in its ruling?

After two hours of often skeptical questioning, it appears that a majority of the high court believes the Colorado decision should be overturned.

The Colorado Supreme Court held that Section 3 applies to Mr. Trump because of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol to try to halt electoral vote certification naming Joe Biden president. It also cited Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power, claiming the election was “stolen.”

During questioning Thursday, the justices appeared more interested in the future than in the past. Namely, what could be the potential downstream effects of ruling that one state can disqualify a candidate in a nationwide election?

In a historic oral argument today, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared likely to overturn a state court ruling barring former President Donald Trump from its primary ballot.

No U.S. court had ever issued such a decision. Then, in December the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Trump – the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination – is disqualified by Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That provision, adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War, holds that no one who “engages in insurrection” against the United States can hold public office.

The case argued today, Trump v. Anderson, poses a simple question: Did the Colorado Supreme Court err in its ruling? On the evidence of two hours of often skeptical questioning, it appears that a majority of the high court believes the Colorado decision should be overturned.

Why We Wrote This

Can a Civil War-era provision barring insurrectionists from public office mean Donald Trump can be removed from presidential ballots? The U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical during oral argument – and concerned more about the future than about the past.

But on what grounds?

The Colorado Supreme Court held that Section 3 applies to Mr. Trump because of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol to try to halt the certification of electoral votes naming Joe Biden president. It also cited Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power, claiming that the election he lost was “stolen” from him. But during oral argument, the justices – even the constitutional originalists – were more interested in the future than in past events. Namely, what could be the potential downstream effects of ruling that a single state can unilaterally disqualify a candidate in a nationwide election?

Chief Justice John Roberts noted that if they upheld the Colorado ruling, there would “surely” be other proceedings to disqualify other presidential candidates, some of which would succeed.



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