In a significant legal development, former President Donald Trump faced his first legal setback in his efforts to secure a spot on Colorado’s ballot for future elections. On October 11th, Trump submitted a declaration of intent to run for office in the state. However, Judge Sarah B. Wallace, appointed by Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis, denied Trump’s attempts to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by six Colorado voters. This lawsuit aimed to disqualify Trump under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits individuals who participated in an insurrection from holding public office. The plaintiffs argue that Trump, by allegedly supporting the events of January 6, 2021, disqualified himself, even though no legal authority has officially labelled those events as an insurrection.
The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and their lawsuit, filed in early September, claims that “Donald Trump tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election.” It further asserts that he incited and exacerbated a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, where a mob, believing they were acting on his orders, attacked the Capitol and Trump allegedly failed to protect it or call off the mob for nearly three hours.
Similar cases have been brought to federal courts but have been dismissed due to lack of standing. Notably, the secretaries of State in New Hampshire and Michigan decided not to remove Trump’s name from the ballot. Judge Wallace’s 24-page ruling states that the court cannot definitively determine whether the Fourteenth Amendment can be used to exclude a presidential candidate from the primary ballot or whether the Secretary of State has the authority to make such a decision. She emphasized that these are issues that should be addressed during a trial.
Colorado’s Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, a Democrat, publicly expressed her belief that Trump incited an insurrection, adding to the complexity of the case. Judge Wallace implied that the Fourteenth Amendment might prevent Trump from appearing on the ballot, asserting that the Republican Party’s choice of candidate does not automatically override Griswold’s authority to exclude Trump’s name. She cited the United States Supreme Court’s position that a party’s right to place a candidate on the ballot is not unrestricted, and Colorado has a legitimate interest in preserving the integrity and practical functioning of the political process, which allows it to exclude candidates constitutionally prohibited from assuming office.
Additionally, Chief U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer rejected Trump’s request to transfer the case to federal court, which paves the way for a trial to determine Trump’s eligibility for the ballot. This decision could have far-reaching implications and might encourage Democratic officials in other states to follow a similar path and exclude Trump from their ballots in the future.