The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that Donald Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s Republican primary ballot. You can read the decision here. I am genuinely surprised. I thought the Minnesota court got it right when they said a political party is not constitutionally barred from nominating a candidate who is ineligible to hold the office. In my mind, a party can choose anyone they want and use any process they want. They can have county executives pick a candidate, as was recently done in New York State by both parties for the congressional seat vacated by George Santos. They can have a party convention, as Virginia Republicans prefer, or use a hybrid convention/primary process like Utah and Minnesota. It’s the general election that is bound by federal election and constitutional law.
Having said that, I think it is blindingly obvious that Donald Trump is not eligible to serve in any office.
Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Other Rights
Section 3 Disqualification from Holding Office
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
In other words, the Republicans are free to choose Trump as their presidential nominee even if he’s ineligible. A separate question is whether an ineligible candidate should appear on the general election ballot. I don’t see why they should since it would just cause confusion but I don’t know that state election officials are constitutionally barred from making stupid decisions that create needless confusion. What matters is that votes for Trump not count, and that no electors for Trump be elected.
In my mind, I’d rule that Trump took an oath to support the Constitution and subsequently engaged in an insurrection against the United States Congress. As a result, he cannot ever hold any office anywhere in the United States. In plainer language, he lost a presidential election and attempted to stay in power by force. He attempted a coup d’etat. It’s not complicated, and interpreting Section 3 of the 14th Amendment shouldn’t he hard. It comes down to whether he engaged in an insurrection or rebellion, and a coup attempt that includes a physical attack on Congress is certainly adequate to meet that definition.
The U.S. Supreme Court will almost certainly have to hear an appeal of this ruling. If they overturn it, I suspect they’ll use the same reasoning I provided here and that the Minnesota court used. But they really need to address the general election question at the same time that they rule on the Colorado Republican primary ballot question.
We need to know if Trump is eligible to be president, not whether he’s eligible to win the Republican nomination.