Supreme Court Says Donald Trump Can Appear On 2024 Ballot

The decision overrules a Colorado court's decision disqualifying Trump due to his role inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
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The U.S. Supreme Court overruled a Colorado court’s decision barring Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 presidential ballot in an unsigned and unanimous decision on Monday.

The case revolved around a clause in the 14th Amendment stating that anyone who took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution but then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against it is ineligible to hold state or federal office. The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled Dec. 19 that Trump’s actions in support of the Jan. 6 insurrection disqualified him from the ballot.

The Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that states do not have the ability under the 14th Amendment to disqualify candidates for federal office.

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the decision states. “But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency.”

The court’s decision ensures that Trump will remain on the ballot in Colorado, and Maine and Illinois, where judges and election officials similarly ruled him ineligible under the 14th Amendment. The decision came the day before Colorado’s Republican presidential primary election, which the state’s top court had ordered Trump disqualified from.

“While the Supreme Court allowed Donald Trump back on the ballot on technical legal grounds, this was in no way a win for Trump,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the liberal legal group that led the Colorado lawsuit, said in a statement. “The Supreme Court had the opportunity in this case to exonerate Trump, and they chose not to do so.”

Trump, on the other hand, called the decision a “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

The case came before the court after a group of Colorado voters challenged Trump’s eligibility under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment in state court. This challenge followed a series of lawsuits brought by CREW and Free Speech for People, another liberal legal group, seeking to disqualify other candidates from office for their participation or alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

At first a Colorado court ruled against the challenge to Trump’s ballot eligibility by claiming that the presidency was not an “office ... under the United States” to which Section 3 applied. On appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court overruled the lower state court in a 4-3 decision to find that Section 3 applied to the presidency and that Trump engaged in insurrection that warranted disqualification from future political office.

In its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court remained silent on whether Trump engaged in insurrection or not, but instead solely determined that states did not have the authority under Section 3 to disqualify federal candidates.

“Because federal officers “‘owe their existence and functions to the united voice of the whole, not of a portion, of the people,’” powers over their election and qualifications must be specifically “delegated to, rather than reserved by, the States,” the decision says, quoting from its 1995 precedent in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton where it struck down state-imposed term limits on congressional candidates.

While the court spoke in a united voice in its decision that states did not have the authority to disqualify federal candidates under Section 3, four justices dissented from the decision’s assertion that Section 3 could only be enforced by congressional legislation.

“Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President,” a concurrence from liberal justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson states. “Although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority’s effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision.”

In addition, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett issued her own concurrence stating that the case “does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced.”

The court’s decision to allow Trump to remain on the ballot was not a surprise. When it heard oral arguments in early February, the court appeared unanimous in its skepticism of the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that Trump was disqualified from office because of his role inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Former president Donald Trump attends the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 16, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Former president Donald Trump attends the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 16, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Chris Unger via Getty Images

At that hearing, the court’s six conservative justices and three liberal ones appeared united in the argument that that clause does not empower individual states to remove candidates for federal office from the ballot without legislative authorization from Congress.

“The whole point of the 14th Amendment was to restrict state power,” Chief Justice John Roberts, historically a swing vote on the court, said at the hearing.

“Wouldn’t that be the last place you’d look for authorization for the states, including the Confederate states, to enforce … the presidential election process?” he added. “That seems to be a position at war with the whole thrust of the 14th Amendment and very ahistorical.”

Kagan raised similar concerns.

“To put it most baldly, the question that you have to confront is why a single state should get to decide who gets to be president of the United States,” she said at the time.

When it issued its ruling in December, the Colorado Supreme Court acknowledged the enormity of such a decision.

“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the court wrote. “We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case at the request of Trump’s lawyers. The former president’s spokesperson Steven Cheung called Colorado’s decision an “unAmerican, unconstitutional act of election interference which cannot stand.”

Efforts to remove Trump from the ballot have advanced in 36 states, though courts have since dismissed or rejected more than half of them.

Trump’s legal woes are far from over. He was initially scheduled to face trial in March on four felony charges related to his role in the Capitol insurrection, but a judge delayed the start of that trial. A new date has not been set.

Across the four criminal cases in which he’s been indicted, he’s been charged with 91 felonies.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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