(Colorado Newsline) A lawsuit filed in Colorado seeks to bar former President Donald Trump from appearing as a 2024 presidential candidate on ballots in the state.
The suit was filed by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on behalf of six Colorado voters, who argue Trump is disqualified under a provision of the 14th Amendment that bars certain office-seekers who have engaged in insurrection.
"Donald Trump tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election," the lawsuit says. "His efforts culminated on January 6, 2021, when he incited, exacerbated, and otherwise engaged in a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol by a mob who believed they were following his orders, and refused to protect the Capitol or call off the mob for nearly three hours as the attack unfolded."
The lawsuit was filed Monday in Denver District Court. The plaintiffs include former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island Claudine (Cmarada) Schneider, who now lives in Colorado; former Colorado House and Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson, an unaffiliated voter who recently left the Republican party; Denver Post columnist and Republican activist Krista Kafer; Michelle Priola, Kathi Wright, and Christopher Castilian.
The defendants are Trump and Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat.
Trump is the leading Republican candidate for president in next year's race.
Though the lawsuit was filed earlier than many expected, it is not a surprise. In July, CREW's executive vice president and chief counsel, Donald K. Sherman, told Newsline the organization planned to bring 14th Amendment-based lawsuits against Trump's candidacy but declined at the time to say in which states those suits would be filed, though he added that there were "attractive factors with respect to Colorado."
A CREW press release Monday said, "Colorado is a good venue to bring this first case, but it will not be the last."
Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election, it was a blatant attack on the United States and the American people. It's a blatant attack on the fundamental right to vote.
- Jena Griswold, Colorado secretary of state
Many pro-democracy advocates say the insurrection disqualification clause in Section 3 of the 14 Amendment disqualifies Trump from holding public office. The passage, adopted after the Civil War, says no person who took an oath to support the Constitution then "engaged in insurrection" can hold any office in the United States.
Newsline had not received a response by the time of publication to an email seeking comment sent to the Trump campaign.
Griswold, an outspoken critic of election deniers and Trump's "big lie" that the 2020 election was stolen from him, said issues raised by the lawsuit are important for a court to decide.
"There are real questions about Colorado law. There are real questions about the United States Constitution. And I'm hopeful that this case will provide guidance to the state of Colorado but also election officials across the nation on Trump's eligibility to run for office," Griswold told Newsline on Monday.
She said those questions include whether the 14th Amendment's disqualification clause prohibits a candidate from running for office or being seated in office. There is also a question about who has the authority to decide whether a candidate is disqualified under the amendment, Griswold said.
"And in Colorado, we don't have a law or a case that tells us whether a disqualified candidate is permitted to be placed on the ballot in the first place," she added. "So those are all open legal and constitutional questions, and that's why it's so important for a court to resolve this crucial question for us here in Colorado and across the nation."
Griswold declined to say how she would respond if courts rule in a way that grants her the authority to bar Trump from the Colorado ballot. But she made clear her view of Trump's actions around the 2020 election, including that Trump did "incite an insurrection and attack our democracy."
"Look, Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election, it was a blatant attack on the United States and the American people. It's a blatant attack on the fundamental right to vote," Griswold said.
She referred to recent criminal indictments against Trump and his supporters for their efforts to reverse the 2020 election results, and she said "the criminal charges are about holding him personally accountable for his actions. The other question is that the country also needs to be protected, electorally, from continued attacks on democracy, and Americans will have various opportunities to protect the country, including at the ballot box, several times in the upcoming election next year."
The question of whether Trump is disqualified under the 14th Amendment has recently gained wide attention, particularly after several conservative legal commentators wrote that the amendment indeed bars Trump from office.
No presidential candidates have yet qualified for the Colorado ballot. Candidates have until Dec. 11 to submit ballot qualification documents to Griswold's office. The deadline for Griswold to certify names for the 2024 Colorado presidential primary ballot is Jan. 5.
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