UNITED STATES NEWS

Michigan Supreme Court will keep Trump on 2024 primary ballot

Dec 27, 2023, 7:20 AM

FILE - Former President Donald Trump listens as he speaks with reporters while in flight on his pla...

FILE - Former President Donald Trump listens as he speaks with reporters while in flight on his plane after a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport, in Waco, Texas, March 25, 2023, while en route to West Palm Beach, Fla. Trump is facing criticism for repeatedly harnessing rhetoric once used by Adolf Hitler to argue that immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country. Trump insists he had no idea that one of the world’s most reviled and infamous figures once used similar words. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Michigan’s Supreme Court is keeping former President Donald Trump on the state’s primary election ballot.

The court said Wednesday it will not hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling from groups seeking to keep Trump from appearing on the ballot.

It said in an order that the application by parties to appeal a Dec. 14 Michigan appeals court judgment was considered, but denied “because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court.”

The ruling contrasts with Dec. 19 decision by a divided Colorado Supreme Court which found Trump ineligible to be president because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. That ruling was the first time in history that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate.

The Michigan and Colorado cases are among dozens hoping to keep Trump’s name off state ballots. They all point to the so-called insurrection clause that prevents anyone from holding office who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution. Until the Colorado ruling, all had failed.

The Colorado ruling is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the rarely used Civil War-era provision.

The plaintiffs in Michigan can technically try again to disqualify Trump under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment in the general election, though it’s likely there will be a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue by then. The state’s high court on Wednesday upheld an appeals court ruling that the Republican Party could place anyone it wants on the primary ballot. But the court was silent on whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment would disqualify Trump in November if he becomes the GOP nominee.

“We are disappointed by the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, the liberal group that filed the suit to disqualify Trump in the state. “The ruling conflicts with longstanding US Supreme Court precedent that makes clear that when political parties use the election machinery of the state to select, via the primary process, their candidates for the general election, they must comply with all constitutional requirements in that process.”

Trump hailed the order, calling the effort to keep him off the ballot in multiple states a “pathetic gambit.”

Only one of the court’s seven justices dissented. Justice Elizabeth M. Welch, a Democrat, wrote that she would have kept Trump on the primary ballot but the court should rule on the merits of the Section 3 challenge. The court has a 4-3 Democratic majority.

Trump pressed two election officials in Michigan’s Wayne County not to certify 2020 vote totals, according to a recording of a post-election phone call disclosed in a former president ’s 2024 campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the recording’s legitimacy.

Attorneys for Free Speech for People, a liberal nonprofit group also involved in efforts to keep Trump’s name off the primary ballot in Minnesota and Oregon, had asked Michigan’s Supreme Court to render its decision by Christmas Day.

The group argued that time was “of the essence” due to “the pressing need to finalize and print the ballots for the presidential primary election.”

Earlier this month, Michigan’s high court refused to immediately hear an appeal, saying the case should remain before the appeals court.

Free Speech for People had sued to force Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to bar Trump from Michigan’s ballot. But a Michigan Court of Claims judge rejected that group’s arguments, saying in November that it was the proper role of Congress to decide the question.

Looking ahead to the next 14th Amendment decision, Trump’s lawyers on Wednesday asked Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State to disqualify herself from deciding whether the former president can be on that state’s primary ballot. Shenna Bellows held a public hearing earlier this month on requests to bar Trump from the Maine ballot, and her ruling is expected this week.

Trump’s attorneys asked Bellows to step aside, pointing to tweets that she posted after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol calling it an “insurrection” and bemoaning that Trump wasn’t convicted by the U.S. Senate after being impeached by the House of Representatives.

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Michigan Supreme Court will keep Trump on 2024 primary ballot