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Colorado Republicans plan next steps after Trump ruled ineligible for primary

Posted at 5:17 PM, Dec 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-20 21:12:22-05

Voters in Colorado are uncertain of what's next a day after the Colorado Supreme Court's issued its opinion barring former President Donald Trump from appearing on the primary ballot in March. If the former president's team appeals the decision, it's likely he will be an option for voters next Spring.

The state's republican party is making preparations for its worst-case scenerio, if no appeal is filed or the U.S. Supreme Court orders that Trump's name remain off the Colorado ballot.

"We will withdraw from the primary if this stands. We cannot in good conscience allow any judge to dictate who we're going to choose as our nominee," Colorado Republican Party Chair Dave Williams told News 5.

The party will appeal the decision and Williams said, they are seeking a waiver from the National Republican Party to move to a caucus system should the primary ballot not include Trump's name.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its 4-3 opinion Tuesday evening, going against a lower court's ruling. It determined the language in the insurrectionist clause within the United States Constitution's 14th Amendment applies to the office of president and that Mr. Trump is himself an insurrectionist. The section of the 14th Amendment was created to keep Confederates from holding federal office following the Civil War. It states that if they've taken an oath to support the constitution and then taken part in an insurrection, they cannot hold office. There is also a question of whether the clause applies to the presidency, and the court found it does.

Some are questioning whether Colorado's top court was the proper venue to determine Mr. Trump's eligibility, or his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The clause does not specify that the person had to be convicted of a crime to be found to have participated in an insurrection.

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Brian Boatright wrote, "Simply put, (Colorado's Election Code) Section 1-1-113 was not enacted to decide whether a candidate engaged in insurrection. In my view, this cause of action should have been dismissed."

The decision by the state supreme court comes from a challenge to Mr. Trump's qualifications as a candidate made by six Colorado voters this fall. Within minutes of the release of the state supreme court's opinion, the trump campaign promised to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That said, the Supreme Court doesn't have to take the case. The high court has never ruled on that section of the 14th Amendment. The justices may choose not to get involved and let the voters decide. Unlike the Colorado Supreme Court where a majority of justices were appointed by Democratic governors, the U.S. Supreme Court is comprised of a majority who were appointed by Republican presidents. If the court doesn't take the case, the state ruling will stand and Trump will not appear on the Colorado primary ballot.

“We know that all these courts are political, even though they are in theory not and folks come in with their orientations. And that we expect, and we can do a pretty good job of guessing where they're going to decide," said Professor Robert Preuhs, who teaches political science at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

The justices put a stay, or pause, on the ruling until January 4, 2024, which is just one day before the Secretary of State's deadline to certify its presidential primary ballots.

If an appeal is filed, which the Trump team said it is planning, Colorado will be required to include Trump's name on the March 5th primary ballot. If it is not appealed, or the deadline is missed, Trump's name will not be on the ballot for voters, and write-in votes for Trump won't be counted.

There's no telling what will happen but if the state supreme court's ruling stands, it will only apply to the ballot in Colorado. However, if the U.S. Supreme Court does not take up the case it could open the door for Trump to face challenges in other states that have not considered the question of his eligibility.

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