Supreme Court poised to side with Trump, putting him back on Colorado ballot

It appears that former President Donald Trump will be back on Colorado’s primary ballot after Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments Thursday in the case that centered around his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

After hearing nearly two hours of arguments Thursday, the majority of the justices seemed dubious about Colorado’s claim that Trump should not be an option at the polls in their state due to his actions leading up to and during the 2021 riots. 

Colorado’s Supreme Court tossed Trump off the ticket in December, citing a Constitutional amendment that bars anyone who swore an oath to the Constitution and "engaged in insurrection" from holding public office. The amendment was adopted in 1868 following the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from stepping into power. 

What is Section 3 of the 14th Amendment? 

The clause reads, in full, "No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability." 

What did Jason Murray and Jonathan Mitchell argue? 

Attorney for the state Jason Murray argued in the High Court that Trump’s actions following the 2020 election should disqualify him from running for president while attorney Jonathan Mitchell, who argued for Trump have countered that Jan. 6 did not amount to an insurrection and that Colorado’s attempt is nothing more than overreach. 

And for the most part, it seemed the justices agreed, including those in the liberal-leaning camp. 

"The question you have to confront is why one state should decide who gets to be president of the United States," Justice Elena Kagan said in court. 

Both Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson had a strong line of questioning for Murray — particularly about if Section 3 applies to presidents — leading many to believe the court overwhelmingly remained skeptical of the state’s case. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, however, did indicate that she might vote to uphold the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling.

Chief Justice John Roberts, generally regarded as a moderate, highlighted the national implications the case could have — namely that it could open the door to state’s pushing candidates off of the ballot for partisan reasons, undermining the will of the voters. 

"I would expect that a goodly number of states will say, ‘whoever the Democratic candidate is, you're off the ballot. For the Republican candidate, you're off the ballot,'" Roberts said. "It will come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election. That's a pretty daunting consequence."

He was not the only one among the justices to discuss the overarching principal of democracy, with the court saying that everyone gets to have a vote and everyone gets to have their vote counted. 

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh questioned Murray, saying that the state’s case takes a position of "disenfranchising voters to a significant degree." 

When will the Supreme Court make a decision?

If the court rules in favor of Colorado and keeps Trump off of their ballot, it would essentially be the end of his presidential run, not only because the ruling would apply to all states, it would also signal that the federal government does, indeed, believe Jan. 6 was an insurrection. 

In the same vein, a ruling in favor of Trump would also end efforts in Colorado, Maine and elsewhere to keep his name off the ballot in the GOP primary and general election as the decision would apply across the board.

It’s a historic decision amid an already tense election cycle. With Trump as the clear Republican frontrunner against his only contender Nikki Haley, it appears the country is set for a 2020 rematch between him and President Joe Biden. 

The court hasn’t provided a timetable for their ruling but they did agree to expedite this case and both sides have called for a quick decision.