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What You Need to Know About Trump Being Disqualified to Run in Colorado

Published: December 20, 2023
Young supporters of former US President Donald Trump hold a "Trump 2024" sign at a 2024 election campaign rally in Waco, Texas, March 25, 2023. (Image: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)

On Dec. 19, Donald Trump was disqualified from Colorado’s presidential primary ballot by the state’s Supreme Court, an extraordinary ruling that could be struck down ahead of the November 2024 U.S. presidential election.

Here is a look at the decision and what it means for the former U.S. president and frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

What does the ruling say?

A slim majority of the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump is disqualified from appearing on the state’s ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bars anyone engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding federal office.

Trump has not been convicted of insurrection by a jury and did not have the right to subpoena records or compel witnesses to testify in the Colorado case, among other basic rights afforded criminal defendants.

A lower court judge previously ruled that Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021 during a riot on the U.S. Capitol involving his supporters amounted to insurrection, but stopped short of disqualifying him, saying Section 3 does not apply to presidents.

The Colorado Supreme Court paused its own ruling, pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which Trump said he will immediately seek.

Will the ruling stand?

The case involves a host of unprecedented legal issues related to Section 3, which was passed in the aftermath of the Civil War and has rarely been tested.

It is not clear how the Supreme Court would rule, but it is dominated by a conservative majority that includes three Trump appointees, some of whom are longtime skeptics of giving courts powers that are not clearly based in legislation.

That was a top concern for the dissenting justices in the 4-3 Colorado decision, who said the majority’s ruling would strip Trump of one of his most basic rights without adequate due process.

Trump reacts

Trump’s campaign called the court decision “undemocratic.”

“The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court,” a campaign spokesperson said.

He and his allies have criticized disqualification cases in Colorado and several other states as undemocratic and part of a conspiracy by his political rivals to keep him out of office.

Even if the ruling survives Supreme Court review, it could be inconsequential to the outcome of the November 2024 election because Trump does not need to win Colorado and is not expected to, given its strong Democratic leanings.

Colorado has nine of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. Biden won the state by more than 13 percentage points in the 2020 election.

But similar lawsuits could be filed in competitive states that Trump must win to prevail, and while none of those courts would be bound by the Colorado decision, judges will likely study it closely while reaching their own conclusions.

What is the status of other attempts to disqualify Trump?

Voters and advocacy groups have sued to block Trump from the ballot in more than 12 states, but at least seven of them have failed for a variety of reasons.

Courts in Michigan, New Hampshire and Florida have dismissed similar cases on procedural and jurisdictional grounds, with some rulings stating that courts do not have the power to unilaterally disqualify candidates from ballots.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has also rejected a disqualification case.

Reuters contributed to this report.