The Colorado Supreme Court ruled former President Donald Trump doesn’t qualify to be on the ballot for the primary. The Supreme Court has now heard oral arguments in the case. Justice Clarence Thomas was skeptical — and so were most of his colleagues.
On February 8, Jason Murray, an attorney representing Colorado, argued the court should uphold the state’s ruling that Trump is not qualified to be on the ballot because he violated Section Three of the 14th Amendment by staging an insurrection on January 6, 2021. The justices didn’t seem convinced that the state has the right to kick a presidential candidate off the ballot.
Justice Thomas asked the attorney to provide examples of states that have disqualified national candidates, but Murray couldn’t offer any examples. Instead, he said that states are the ones that have the power to run elections. Thomas wasn’t buying it. He pointed out that Confederates were still running for office, saying there should “at least be a few examples of national candidates being disqualified.”
Murray claimed that “there were certainly national candidates who are disqualified by Congress.” The justice shot that allegation down, saying it was not the case.
Thomas wasn’t alone in his line of thinking. Most justices didn’t think the state should play a role in deciding if a presidential candidate is on a state ballot under the 14th Amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out that the “whole point” of the amendment was to restrict the power of the states post-Civil War to force them into line. He said it seemed unlikely the states, especially Confederate states, would have been given the power to “enforce the presidential election process.” He also predicted that if the high court upheld the Colorado decision, it would allow partisans at the state level to boot their party’s opposition from the ballots, creating chaos in the election.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of the court’s three liberals, didn’t appear to buy Murray’s reasoning either, asking why the authors of the 14th Amendment would have created a system where states could suddenly disqualify candidates where elections were pending.
A ruling on the case is expected in the coming weeks.
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