DENVER – A group of Republican and unaffiliated voters, most of them from Colorado, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to bar Donald Trump from appearing on Colorado’s 2024 presidential primary ballot, claiming the former president disqualified himself from public office after violating the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit, brought against Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, names former Colorado House and Senate Majority leader Norma Anderson; Michelle Priola; Kathi Wright; former Republican Rhode Island Rep. Claudine (Cmarada) Schneider; Colorado never-Trumper Krista Kafer; and Christopher Castilian as plaintiffs.
Petitioners claim Donald Trump made plans to “cast doubt on and undermine confidence in our nation’s election infrastructure” and knowingly sought to subvert the U.S. Constitution and system of elections through a “sustained campaign of lies” that led to the events of January 6, “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” as he allegedly tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“Because Trump took these actions after he swore an oath to support the Constitution, Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits him from being President and from qualifying for the Colorado ballot for President in 2024,” the lawsuit reads.
The plaintiffs argued the lawsuit was filed to “protect the rights of Republican and Independent voters to fully participate in the upcoming primary election by ensuring that votes cast will be for those constitutionally qualified to hold office, that a disqualified candidate does not siphon off support from their candidates of choice, and that voters are not deprived of the chance to vote for a qualified candidate in the general election.”
Group sues to disqualify Donald Trump from appearing in Colorado’s 2024 presidential primary ballot
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone who has taken an oath of office from holding public office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, unless they are granted amnesty by a majority of Congress.
The six Republicans and unaffiliated voters, represented by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) – a Washington-based watchdog group – claim Trump “violated that oath by recruiting, inciting and encouraging a violent mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a futile attempt to remain in office.”
“If the very fabric of our democracy is to hold, we must ensure that the Constitution is enforced and the same people who attacked our democratic system not be put in charge of it,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a prepared statement. “We aren’t bringing this case to make a point, we’re bringing it because it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future. While it is unprecedented to bring this type of case against a former president, January 6th was an unprecedented attack that is exactly the kind of event the framers of the 14th Amendment wanted to build protections in case of. You don’t break the glass unless there’s an emergency.”
In a statement to Denver7, the Colorado Secretary of State said she looked “forward to the Colorado Court’s substantive resolution of the issues,” as Colorado law is unclear on how to consider challenges to the law or the amendment in question when determining whether someone can run for office in the state.
“I would say not only is Colorado law unclear, the U.S. Constitution is also unclear,” Griswold told Denver7. “What’s unclear about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is that it doesn’t say whether someone who would be disqualified can run for office, or whether they are just not seated after they win office. It also doesn’t say who gets to decide whether a candidate is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The court of law has to decide whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment even applies to ballot access. The court would have to decide who the decision maker is, [and] whether Colorado law is clear [on this matter].”
Her office pointed to Colorado Revised Statues 1-4-501(1), “Only eligible electors eligible for office,” which reads, in part:
(1) No person except an eligible elector who is at least eighteen years of age, unless another age is required by law, is eligible to hold any office in this state. No person is eligible to be a designee or candidate for office unless that person fully meets the qualifications of that office as stated in the constitution and statutes of this state on or before the date the term of that office begins. The designated election official shall not certify the name of any designee or candidate who fails to swear or affirm under oath that he or she will fully meet the qualifications of the office if elected; or who is unable to provide proof that he or she meets any requirements of the office relating to registration, residence, or property ownership; or who the designated election official determines is not qualified to hold the office that he or she seeks based on residency requirements. The information found on the person’s voter registration record is admissible as prima facie evidence of compliance with this section.
New Hampshire, Arizona and Michigan are facing similar lawsuits to disqualify the former president under the 14th Amendment, according to ABC News.
Denver7 has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment and has yet to hear back.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Dave Williams, the chairman of the Colorado Republicans, referred to the group of plaintiffs as “despicable malcontents” who were trying to get away with robbing Coloradans of their options or votes.
“We will consider all options, whether litigation or otherwise, to preserve the right of Republican voters to vote for President Trump (or any other Republican candidate for that matter) as they participate in our Republican Presidential Primary on March 5, 2023,” Williams said.
Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election, has been indicted four times in the last five months — accused in Georgia and Washington, D.C., of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss, in Florida of hoarding classified documents, and in Manhattan of falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf. Some of Trump’s criminal trials are scheduled to overlap with the presidential primary season, according to the Associated Press.
Denver7’s Jason Gruenauer contributed to this report.