Voters sue to kick Trump off ballot in Colorado, citing 14th Amendment theory

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump takes the stage during a rally at Norris Penrose Equestrian Center in Colorado Springs, October 18, 2016.

Rj Sangosti | Denver Post | Getty Images

A group of Colorado voters filed a lawsuit Wednesday to kick Donald Trump off the state’s ballot in 2024, citing a nascent legal theory that proposes the former president is constitutionally barred from running for office.

The complaint hinges on the argument that then-President Trump engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and is therefore disqualified from holding government office under the 14th Amendment.

Trump tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, leading to a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol to stop the lawful transfer of power to his successor,” the plaintiffs wrote in their legal complaint in Colorado state court.

The third section of the 14th Amendment bars people from holding “any office” at the federal or state level if they have “previously taken an oath” to support the U.S. Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Ratified in 1866, the so-called Disqualification Clause was intended to prevent leaders of the defeated Confederacy from running for public office after the war. The clause allows an individual’s disqualification to be overruled with a two-thirds vote from the House and Senate.

Trump has claimed that the growing attention to the theory, and legal actions stemming from it, are all part of a broader conspiracy against him.

But a pair of constitutional scholars last month argued in an academic paper that the clause disqualifies Trump, “and potentially many others, because of their participation in the attempted overthrow of the 2020 presidential election.”

The plaintiffs — six Colorado registered voters, four of whom are Republicans — alleged in the new complaint that Trump’s actions led to “a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol to stop the lawful transfer of power to his successor.”

The theory also has some outspoken detractors, however. Law professor Jonathan Turley, who defended Trump during his first impeachment, called it “the ultimate Hail Mary pass” by Trump’s critics.

The legal interpretation being used to try to keep Trump from reclaiming power has rarely, if ever, been tested in the courts — a fact the plaintiffs in the Colorado suit acknowledge.

“If the very fabric of our democracy is to hold, we must ensure that the Constitution is enforced and the same people who attacked our democratic system not be put in charge of it,” said Noah Bookbinder, the president of the watchdog group CREW, the organization behind the suit.

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“While it is unprecedented to bring this type of case against a former president, January 6th was an unprecedented attack that is exactly the kind of event the framers of the 14th Amendment wanted to build protections in case of,” Bookbinder said. “You don’t break the glass unless there’s an emergency.”

The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring Trump disqualified under the Constitution and enjoining Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold from “taking any action that would allow him to access the ballot.”

Trump himself has weighed in on the increasingly discussed constitutional debate.

“Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election,” Trump asserted in a social media post Monday.

“Like Election Interference, it is just another ‘trick’ being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, to again steal an Election that their candidate, the WORST, MOST INCOMPETENT, & MOST CORRUPT President in U.S. history, is incapable of winning in a Free and Fair Election,” Trump wrote.

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