US Supreme Court rules Trump can remain on 2024 primary ballots

Top US court unanimously reverses Colorado decision to kick Trump off primary ballot over January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Donald Trump holds his fist in the air
Former US President Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and is widely expected to face off for a second time against President Joe Biden in November [File: Jay Paul/Reuters]

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an effort by Colorado to remove Donald Trump’s name from the state’s Republican primary ballot, delivering the former president a major victory as he seeks his party’s nomination.

The justices on Monday unanimously reversed a December 19 decision by Colorado’s top court to kick Trump off the ballot under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which includes a section that prohibits individuals from holding public office if they have participated in an insurrection.

Trump’s critics have accused him of inciting and supporting the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won and Trump lost.

“BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!” the ex-president and frontrunner in the Republican presidential nomination race wrote on his Truth Social platform after the US Supreme Court’s decision.

The ruling ends efforts in Colorado, Illinois, Maine and elsewhere to kick Trump off the ballot because of his attempts to undo his loss in the 2020 election to Biden, whom he is likely to face again in November’s presidential election.

The ruling comes a day before Super Tuesday, the day when the largest number of states hold their presidential primaries and caucuses.

The 14th Amendment bars people from holding US office, including the presidency, if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof”.

But the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, said on Monday that only Congress can enforce the provision against federal officeholders and candidates.

“We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency,” the top US court said in an unsigned opinion.

Trump also had been kicked off the ballot in Maine and Illinois based on the 14th Amendment, but those decisions were put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Colorado case.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting on Monday afternoon from West Palm Beach, Florida, said that while the top US court’s decision was expected, it does mark “a win” for Trump.

“It means he will be on all 50 states’ [ballots] come November, if he wins the Republican presidential nominating contest,” Fisher said.

In the Colorado case, Trump’s eligibility had been challenged in court by a group of six voters in the western state — four Republicans and two independents — who portrayed him as a threat to democracy and sought to hold him accountable for the Capitol riot.

That 2021 attack was led by supporters of the then-president, who sought to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory.

The Colorado plaintiffs were backed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a liberal watchdog group.

In a statement on Monday, CREW President Noah Bookbinder said the Supreme Court had “failed to meet the moment” by letting Trump back on the ballot. But Bookbinder argued the ruling is “in no way a win for Trump”.

“The Supreme Court had the opportunity in this case to exonerate Trump, and they chose not to do so,” he said.

“Every court — or decision-making body — that has substantively examined the issue has determined that January 6th was an insurrection and that Donald Trump incited it. That remains true today.”

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said she was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s ruling, which she said stripped US states of their ability to enforce the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause.

“Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot,” she wrote on X.

Trump separately faces two criminal cases over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 vote: one in federal court in Washington, DC, and another at the state level in Georgia.

He has denied any wrongdoing and accused prosecutors of conducting a politically motivated witch-hunt to derail his re-election campaign.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies