Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Bar Trump From Ballot
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out an attempt to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential primary ballot in the state, but left open the possibility of revisiting the matter ahead of the general election.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Natalie Hudson concluded a primary is “an internal party election” and said there simply “is no state statute that prohibits a major political party from placing on the presidential nomination primary ballot, or sending delegates to the national convention supporting a candidate who is ineligible to hold office.”
The ruling comes less than a week after attorneys for Trump, a group of Minnesota voters and a watchdog group called Free Speech for People presented their arguments for and against the former president’s appearing on the state’s March 5 primary ballot.
The plaintiffs in the case based their argument on Section 3 of Article 14 of the Constitution, a measure adopted after the Civil War to bar former Confederate officials from holding federal office.
It states, “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 … 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.”
They contend Trump’s actions met the threshold through remarks he made before a crowd at the ellipse in front of the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, that appear to have inspired the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.
But Nicholas Nelson, an attorney representing Trump, told the justices the state’s role in determining candidates’ eligibility for president was limited to “basic processing,” such as determining whether they meet the age requirement.
Nelson went on to argue that the case should never even have been before the court, calling it a political matter.
“There’s nothing for the courts to decide about the eligibility question,” he said.
Though Hudson said Trump can appear on the primary ballot, she didn’t rule out returning to the question if a lawsuit is filed over Trump’s general election status should he indeed be the Republican nominee.
“Although the secretary of state and other election officials administer the mechanics of the election, this is an internal party election to serve internal party purposes, and winning the presidential nomination primary does not place the person on the general election ballot as a candidate for president of the United States,” she wrote.
The cases in Minnesota and Colorado are just two of several similar lawsuits that have been filed across the country to bar Trump from state ballots in 2024 over his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Many legal scholars believe either the Minnesota or the Colorado case will ultimately land the matter in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Minnesota secretary of state’s office last week urged the court to act quickly to allow time to get ballots printed for the 2024 presidential primary. Early voting ahead of Minnesota’s March presidential primary starts Jan. 19.
Within minutes of the court ruling, the Trump campaign released a statement under the name of its spokesman, Steven Cheung.
It said: “Today’s decision in Minnesota, like New Hampshire before it, is further validation of the Trump campaign’s consistent argument that the 14th Amendment ballot challenges are nothing more than strategic, unconstitutional attempts to interfere with the election by desperate Democrats who see the writing on the wall: President Trump is dominating the polls and has never been in a stronger position to end the failed Biden presidency next November.
“The ballot challenges (which we call the Democrats’ STEAL Curtain) are universally funded by left-wing activist groups masquerading as ‘non-partisan watchdogs.’ These groups are funded by some of the biggest financiers of the Democrat Party, including the likes of George Soros. They are sham groups doing the bidding of the Biden campaign and their ballot challenges should be summarily thrown out wherever they next arise,” the campaign said.
In a joint statement, Free Speech For People and Lockridge Grindal Nauen, counsel for the voter-petitioners in Growe v. Simon, saidthe court’s ruling was “based on technicalities of Minnesota state law: specifically, that ‘there is no state statute that prohibits a major political party from placing on the presidential nomination primary ballot, or sending delegates to the national convention supporting a candidate who is ineligible to hold office.” The court dismissed the petition, but “without prejudice as to petitioners bringing a petition raising their claims as to the general election.’
“The court did not address any questions arising under the U.S. Constitution. It did not rule on Trump’s claim that section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment requires federal implementing legislation; it did not rule on Trump’s claim that only Congress can decide presidential candidates’ qualifications; it did not rule on Trump’s claim that the president of the United States is not an “officer of the United States”; and it did not rule on the Republican Party of Minnesota’s claim that a primary-stage challenge violates its freedom of association. It simply ruled that the Minnesota state challenge statute does not allow challenges to presidential candidates at the primary stage,” Free Speech for People said.
“Consequently, it has no impact on Free Speech For People’s challenge in Michigan, or CREW’s similar challenge in Colorado, or any other challenges FSFP plans to bring in other states. Nor, as the court’s order specifically mentioned, does it preclude FSFP from raising the same claims before the general election, if Trump’s candidacy proceeds to that point, the group added.
Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech For People and an attorney for the petitioners, said he was disappointed by the ruling.
“However, the Minnesota Supreme Court explicitly recognized that the question of Donald Trump’s disqualification for engaging in insurrection against the U.S. Constitution may be resolved at a later stage,” Fein said. “The decision isn’t binding on any court outside Minnesota and we continue our current and planned legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Donald Trump.”