(Washington Examiner) Former President Donald Trump can appear on Colorado‘s 2024 election ballot, a state judge ruled Friday evening, siding against plaintiffs who said the Constitution forbids those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.
Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace held that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment “did not intend to include the President as “an officer of the United States,” according to her 102-page order. However, she did find that Trump engaged in insurrection during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot through “incitement,” complicating her decision.
“Pursuant to the above, the Court ORDERS the Secretary of State to place Donald J. Trump on the presidential primary ballot when it certifies the ballot on January 5, 2024,” Wallace wrote.
But Wallace did find that Trump’s actions on the day of the riot did amount to engaging in an insurrection. She reconciled her decision to keep the former president on the state’s ballot by finding he was not an “officer of the United States” within the meaning of Section 3, thus denying the request for his removal from the state’s election ballot.
A five-day trial earlier this month included expert testimony about how Section 3 was intended to be read around the time of its 1868 enactment. There, experts testified about how some members of Congress weren’t seated for actions like giving family members money before they left to fight for the Confederacy and other examples from the Civil War era.
Wallace said she was hesitant to bar Trump from the ballot or “embrace an interpretation which would disqualify a presidential candidate without a clear, unmistakable indication that such is the intent,” according to her order Friday evening.
“Consequently, the Court finds that Petitioners have established that Trump engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021 through incitement, and that the First Amendment does not protect Trump’s speech,” Wallace said.
The lawsuit sought to force Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, to block Trump from appearing on the ballot. While she did not take sides on either side of the lawsuit, she issued a statement Friday evening saying, “This decision may be appealed.
“The Court determined that Donald Trump is eligible to be placed on the Colorado ballot in the March Presidential Primary. This decision may be appealed. As Secretary of State, I will always ensure that every voter can make their voice heard in free and fair elections,” Griswold posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.
The plaintiffs in Colorado are four Republicans and two independent voters and are expected to appeal, meaning the U.S. Supreme Court will likely have to wade into this dispute at some point. They will have a one-week deadline to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court to challenge Wallace’s decision.
Similar lawsuits challenging Trump’s ballot eligibility under the 14th Amendment have recently stalled in Minnesota, Michigan, and New Hampshire.
The Minnesota Supreme Court evaded the question of whether Section 3 applies to Trump, who is so far dominating the Republican presidential primary. It tossed a lawsuit to remove him from that state’s primary ballot by claiming that political parties can allow whomever they want to qualify for primaries but left the door open for a general election challenge if Trump becomes the GOP nominee.