Disqualifying a Presidential Candidate Under the Fourteenth Amendment

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released two updated reports concerning the disqualification of a candidate for the U.S. presidency, specifically about former President Donald Trump and the ongoing dispute over his eligibility for future office in the upcoming 2024 presidential elections.

The dispute stems from Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, with multiple lawsuits shaping the narrative. Section 3 stipulates: 

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.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in Anderson v. Griswold deemed Trump to be ineligible to appear on the ballot because he is constitutionally disqualified from holding the office of the President under Section 3. Colorado ultimately concluded that Trump would appear on the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot. However, it is yet to be determined if votes for the former President will actually be counted. Similarly, Maine’s secretary of state also determined Trump’s ineligibility and denied him access to Maine’s presidential primary election ballot. 

In fact, comparable cases have been popping up nationwide to echo these proceedings. Many allege that Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021 amounted to “engag[ing] in insurrection”, rendering him disqualified. 

Trump has challenged these ineligibility claims, so the Supreme Court will now set up to hear arguments in Trump v. Anderson. This case will focus on whether the Colorado Supreme Court erred in ordering Trump excluded from the 2024 primary ballot. All in all, whether Trump is subject to disqualification under Section 3 essentially will depend on whether the President is considered an “officer of the United States” and whether or not he took an “oath to support the Constitution.”

Overall, as these legal battles unfold, the disqualification of a former president from the presidential ballot could raise profound constitutional questions. Courts will have to grapple with the application of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, shaping the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates in the upcoming 2024 elections. 

Both CRS reports discuss this ongoing debate. Part 1 focuses on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment as it applies to the presidency. Part 2 focuses on examining Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment as it applies to ballot access.

For more information, check out HSDL documents related to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and presidential candidates. You can also explore its In Focus topic on Election Security.

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