Activist lawyers sue to keep Trump off 2024 ballot
Anti-Trump nonprofit Free Speech for People has filed a lawsuit in Michigan aimed at keeping Republican frontrunner Donald Trump off the state’s 2024 ballot by arguing he violated his presidential oath by participating in an “insurrection” against the Constitution.
The challenge – one of several similar suits being filed by like-minded groups across the US – is based on Section Three of the 14th Amendment, a rarely-cited provision ratified in 1868 and designed to keep former Confederate officials from attaining positions of power in the nominally-reconstructed US Congress.
While the clause bars from running for certain offices anyone who took an oath to the Constitution but later “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against it, “president” was not included in those offices as written – just “elector of president and vice president.”
Trump’s lawyers have called for the suit to be dismissed as a violation of the Republican frontrunner’s own constitutional rights, along with a similar suit filed by the same group in Minnesota and one in Colorado by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The campaign to preemptively remove Trump from the ballot constitutes illegal election interference as well as attempts to stifle his First Amendment right to freedom of speech, Trump has repeatedly declared.
While House Democrats impeached Trump due to his alleged incitement of the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, he was never found guilty by the Senate. Despite the frequent use of the term “insurrection” by media commentators to describe the rally-turned-riot, none of the thousand-plus participants, who were subsequently charged with crimes related to their attendance, were ever actually charged with rebellion or insurrection, which would require proving they had gone to the Capitol with the intent of overthrowing the government.
Free Speech for People claims on its website to have been founded in response to the Supreme Court’s infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, which greenlighted the now-torrential flow of corporate money into politics.
While much of the organization’s literature still focuses on repealing that wildly unpopular ruling, the group has seemingly refocused what the Associated Press has described as its “significant legal resources” on keeping Trump from returning to the Oval Office. In addition to the lawsuits it has filed in Michigan and Minnesota, in 2021, the group wrote letters to election officials in all 50 states insisting Trump be removed from their ballots should he attempt to run for the presidency again.
Section Three of the 14th Amendment has not been leveled against a political candidate since 1919, when Congress refused to seat a Socialist member of the House on grounds he had allegedly given aid and comfort to the enemy during World War I.