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Supreme Court unanimously rules Trump can remain on ballot

The Supreme Court's decision will also impact Illinois and Maine.

Published: March 4, 2024 10:01am

Updated: March 4, 2024 2:13pm

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that former President Donald Trump can remain on the 2024 presidential ballot in a decision that comes one day before the Colorado Republican primary after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the top Republican contender is ineligible.

The Supreme Court ruled that the "responsibility for enforcing" the 14th Amendment's "insurrection" clause "against federal officeholders and candidates rests with Congress and not the States."

The court said that "the text of the Fourteenth Amendment, on its face, does not affirmatively delegate such a power to the States."

If states were allowed to determine which candidates were eligible for the ballot, it could result in a candidate being "declared ineligible in some States, but not others, based on the same conduct," the justices wrote.

"The disruption would be all the more acute" if a candidate were found ineligible after people had voted in the election, they also said. "Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos."

The decision strikes down the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that found Trump ineligible for the ballot due to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which contains a clause banning people who "engaged in insurrection" from holding office. The state high court said he violated the amendment through his alleged involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election and the subsequent Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The Supreme Court justices had indicated that they would rule in Trump's favor last month after many of them appeared skeptical of arguments from Colorado plaintiffs in the case.

The three liberal justices – Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – agreed with the majority's judgment but offered a concurring opinion, which opened with a quote from Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case that overturned the landmark 1973 abortion case Roe v. Wade.

"If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more," the three justices quoted Dobbs in the opening of their concurrence. 

Allowing Colorado to kick Trump off the ballot, "would, we agree, create a chaotic state-by-state patchwork, at odds with our Nation’s federalism principles," the three liberal justices wrote. However, they said they disagree with the majority's decision, which they feel would "insulate this Court and petitioner (Trump) from future controversy." 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett also offered a concurring opinion, writing that she thinks the court only needed to determine whether states lack the power to enforce the insurrection clause. "It does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced," she wrote.

"For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home," she also said.

The Supreme Court's decision will also impact Illinois and Maine, which also found Trump ineligible. However, all state rulings on the matter were on hold until the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Colorado case.

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