Hop on the 14th Amendment bandwagon to get Donald Trump off the ballot.
California lawmakers are thinking about taking a novel – and long-shot – approach to keeping former president Donald Trump off the ballots in the state, using Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, but with certain caveats.
The California approach to using the 14th Amendment to disqualify Trump from the ballot in the state is different from other efforts – like the ones in Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, and Colorado – as the initiative is coming from local legislators, as opposed to lawsuits filed by advocacy groups or individuals. It is also unique in the sense that the California approach requires the cooperation of California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, to push for an expedited ruling from a state court on the matter.
Different approaches, same core
The crux of the argument of those pushing to have Trump disqualified from state ballots is the same – that his alleged involvement in the events of January 6, 2021, constitute an act of insurrection, which according to the 14th Amendment, is a basis for disqualifying someone for seeking public office ever again. The concept has been used sparingly throughout U.S. history though, as it was only ever applied to former members of the Confederate Army in the 1800s.
“We all watched in horror Mr. Trump’s insurrection against the United States when he ordered a mob of his supporters to the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 to intimidate Vice President Pence and the United States Congress,” read the letter California lawmakers sent to Bonta’s office.
Untested legal theory
But just like how some Republicans aren’t sold on a formal impeachment against President Biden, Democratic secretaries of state aren’t too keen on deciding on whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment can be used to bar Trump – or other candidates, for that matter – from appearing on ballots.
“The United States Supreme Court is the appropriate place to resolve this issue,” said Michigan Secretary of State Joceyn Benson, who is a Democrat. The bottom line, she added that “it’s not about us at all. It doesn’t matter what a secretary of state does because we expect the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter.”
And that’s despite the fact that the majority of Supreme Court justices at the moment are Republican-appointed and conservative.
Speaking to news outlet Politico, Benson said that even giving state secretaries the authority to erase someone from election ballots in a state is inappropriate, saying, “It shouldn’t be a unilateral decision from a political appointee or elected official. These should be determinations made by a judicial official.”
Other secretaries of state, like Minnesota’s Steve Simon and Colorado’s Jena Griswold, both whom are also Democrats, also agree that Trump’s eligibility to be elected based on whether or not he violated the 14th Amendment is a matter for the judiciary to decide.
“We are not the eligibility police,” Simon said while Griswold stated that, “The court has to make those determinations.”
Tim Ramos has written for various publications, corporations, and organizations – covering everything from finance, politics, travel, entertainment, and sports – in Asia and the U.S. for more than 10 years.