The nation’s top election officials say they doubt that they can deploy a largely untested legal theory to disqualify Trump from the ballot under the interpretation of the 14th Amendment — and that they shouldn’t be the ones to try it.
“The United States Supreme Court is the appropriate place to resolve this issue. The bottom line is it’s not about us at all. It doesn’t matter what a secretary of state does because we expect the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter,” said Michigan Secretary of State Joceyn Benson, a Democrat.
Benson said that her responsibility includes ensuring that the decisions made are nonpartisan, follow the law, uphold the Constitution and protect democracy.
The arguments that Trump was at the center of a push to overturn the 2020 election and a riot at the U.S. Capitol, making him ineligible for future service, are compelling. But the actual wording of the 14th Amendment, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” make the case yet to be determined in court.
Benson also says that states’ laws vary, and in Michigan the laws are silent on candidate qualifications and eligibility, as are many other states’ laws.
Lawsuits have been filed in Colorado and Minnesota, both with Democratic secretries of state, and both are looking to their respective state courts for clarification.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said, “We are not the eligibility police. We don’t have investigators, we don’t lie in the bushes with binoculars to determine whether a candidate is really lying her head where she says she does for residency purposes. And the same is true for this kind of eligibility challenge.”
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, when asked about Trump’s eligibility, said “the court has to make those determinations and likely will.”