Trump’s eligibility ruling sparks mixed reactions ahead of Super Tuesday


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday brought certainty to a primary season confounded by confusing and divergent rulings at the state level by unanimously ruling that the 14th Amendment did not allow states to disqualify former President Donald J. Trump.

But the reaction to the ruling showed that challenges to Trump’s candidacy had hardened political fault lines and angered Republicans who saw the lawsuits as an undemocratic attempt to meddle in the election. And the ruling came as voters in more than a dozen states prepared for the Super Tuesday primaries.

“It motivated people to get involved,” said Brad Wann, GOP caucus coordinator in Colorado, the first of three states to disqualify Trump and the state at the center of the Supreme Court case. “They feel like the Democrats in this state are trying to take away our basic rights. “People are talking in coffee shops and churches and saying we can’t let this happen.”

The ballot challenges, which were filed in more than 30 states, focused on whether Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss disqualified him from holding the presidency again. The cases were based on a clause of the 14th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, that bars government officials from holding office who “engaged in an insurrection or rebellion.”

On Monday, all nine justices of the Supreme Court agreed that individual states could not ban presidential candidates under the insurrection provision. Four judges would have left it that way. A five-justice majority, in an unsigned opinion, went on to say that Congress must act to give force to that section.

In Illinois, where the Supreme Court’s decision overrode a state judge’s decision last week that Trump was ineligible, many voters said Trump should be on the ballot.

The former president had remained on the ballot in all three states to disqualify him (Colorado, Illinois and Maine) while he appealed those rulings. The Supreme Court opinion provided a final resolution.

“People are making up everything they can against him,” said Herbert Polchow, 67, a Republican retiree in Rankin, Illinois, who said election challenges were just a way for Democrats to prevent Trump from becoming president again. .

Zachary Spence, 42, of Danville, Illinois, said the Supreme Court’s decision was a victory for voters.

“You can’t take away people’s choice,” said Spence, a supporter of the former president.

In Colorado, Patrick Anderson said he had voted for Trump twice but would not do so a third time because Trump denied the results of the 2020 election. He said he agreed with the Supreme Court, to a point.

“I think the presumption should be to let the voter have their say,” Anderson, 77, said. “But I don’t think there should be a popularity contest if there’s a crime involved.”

While Republican officials had been united in opposition to the ballot challenges, the issue had divided Democrats, some of whom doubted the political and legal merits of challenging Trump.

Even for those who supported the election challenges, Monday’s ruling brought clarity after weeks of uncertainty.

“I think Colorado should be able to exclude oath-breaking insurrectionists from our presidential ballot, but the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees,” said Jena Griswold, Colorado Secretary of State and a Democrat. “So, based on that, Donald Trump is an eligible candidate and votes for him will be counted in the state of Colorado.”

Shenna Bellows, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state who ruled in December that Trump was ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot, issued an updated ruling Monday reflecting the Supreme Court’s decision. “In accordance with my oath and obligation to follow the law and the Constitution,” she wrote, “I hereby withdraw my determination that Mr. Trump’s primary petition is invalid.”

The new certainty, officials on both sides of the issue agreed, was important. The Colorado and Maine primaries are Tuesday, and the Illinois primary is March 19.

“Now that this decision has been made, voters in the Super Tuesday states can hold their elections without any additional distractions regarding this issue,” said Secretary of State Wes Allen of Alabama, a Republican.

Those leading the effort to remove Trump from the ballot expressed disappointment and stood by their decision to file challenges.

Ben Clements, president of Free Speech for People, a group that filed several challenges at the state level, called the Supreme Court ruling “a disservice to the country and our constitutional democracy.” He said in an interview that the attempt to disqualify Trump “was absolutely a fight worth fighting.”

Some voters agreed. Richard Utman, 69, a political independent from Palermo, Maine, said he was disappointed by the court’s decision and that “the ruling shows that the Constitution is violated.”

“He is a criminal,” Utman said. “He doesn’t have to hold a position. He does not have to be president.”

John Anthony Castro, a long-shot Republican presidential candidate who has filed federal lawsuits challenging Trump’s eligibility in more than 20 states, said he did not believe the Supreme Court opinion would prevent him from moving forward with his court cases. None of Castro’s lawsuits have been successful and many have been dismissed or withdrawn.

Many Republicans used dire language to describe challenges to Trump, and some spoke ominously about what might have happened if the Supreme Court had made the opposite decision.

Jay Ashcroft, Missouri’s secretary of state, had previously said that conservative states could try to disqualify President Biden if the Supreme Court had allowed Trump to be removed from the ballot.

“I am grateful that the Supreme Court put an end to this idiotic attempt to subvert our electoral process,” said Ashcroft, a Republican.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said “Americans can celebrate that the Supreme Court rejected this authoritarian effort that would interfere in our elections and prevent Donald Trump from even running for office.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, a Republican, praised the ruling and accused Colorado of a “blatant attempt to subvert the will of the American people in the upcoming presidential election.”

Some voters who didn’t like Trump said they, too, agreed with the Supreme Court.

At an early voting site in Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Laura Edwards said she was concerned that the legal fight over Trump’s appearance on the ballot might have given her a political boost.

“It gives him more attention and he will use it as a victory,” said Edwards, 42, who voted in the Democratic primary. “They should have left him on the ballot and left us to hope that logical people won’t vote for him.”

Karl Klockars, 78, a Wheaton lawyer who voted early for a candidate other than Trump in the Republican primary, said the Supreme Court “did the right thing, and it’s evident from the fact that there were no dissenters.”

And Gregory Hinote, 64, a Danville retiree, said he normally didn’t vote in primaries, but this time he did because he believed voting was the best way to prevent Trump from becoming president again.

“Voting is the way,” said Hinote, who selected a Democratic primary ballot. “I think we should vote and expel him. That’s the way to do it: don’t ban state by state.”

Roberto Chiarito reported from Wheaton, Illinois, anderson from Danville, Illinois, David Philipps from Colorado Springs and mitch smith from Chicago. The report was contributed by Maggie Astor, Murray Carpenter, Adam Liptak and Jenna Russell.

You may also like...