Activist group files 14th Amendment lawsuit in Michigan to force removal of Trump from ballot

October 1, 2023
Ben Marquis

Some of former President Donald Trump's fiercest opponents are seeking to prevent his return to the White House not by defeating him in the voting booth but by barring him from appearing on the 2024 election ballot altogether.

The latest example of this decidedly un-democratic plot to disenfranchise Trump and his supporters is in Michigan, where an activist group has filed a lawsuit to block the leading Republican candidate from appearing on the state's primary and general election ballots, according to the Daily Wire.

That same group, a supposedly nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization ironically known as Free Speech For People, also filed a similar lawsuit in Minnesota and attempted but failed to do so in New Hampshire.

Removal from the ballot via Sec. 3 of the 14th Amendment

The lawsuit and the broader Trump removal effort behind it, according to Courthouse News, stems from the theory that the former president, by way of his alleged encouragement and support of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that some on the left have argued was an "insurrection or rebellion" and disqualifies him from ever holding any public office again, including the presidency.

That theory is based on Sec. 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states in the relevant part: "No person shall ... hold any office, civil or military, under the United States ... 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."

It is debatable whether that provision actually applies to Trump, as the amendment was enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War and was aimed squarely at barring former Confederate officers and politicians from holding office, and may in fact be nullified due to blanket amnesty for all former Confederates passed by Congress during the post-war Reconstruction Era.

Lawsuit would force secretary of state to block Trump from ballot

The applicability debate and various counterarguments against the 14th Amendment effort to bar Trump from appearing on ballots has been ignored by groups like Free Speech For People, who have urged the various secretaries of state across the country to use their authority as the top election official to unilaterally block the former president from appearing on ballots.

In Michigan, that would be Sec. of State Jocelyn Benson, but she penned an op-ed for The Washington Post that explicitly argued against state secretaries having such power to decide such an important question, which would be in the province of the court system, and made it clear that unless the courts said otherwise, Trump would appear on Michigan's ballots next year.

Seemingly in response to Benson's op-ed, Free Speech For People then filed its 72-page lawsuit that seeks a court order forcing Benson to remove Trump from the ballot under the auspices of the 14th Amendment's disqualification provision.

How that suit will fare in the Michigan courts is anybody's guess, but similar efforts in other states against Trump and some of his associates in Congress have largely been unsuccessful -- if they've even received a hearing and not been dismissed outright.

Group insists Trump is now ineligible to hold public office

Ron Fein, the legal director for Free Speech For People, said in a statement, "Donald Trump violated his oath of office and incited a violent insurrection that attacked the U.S. Capitol, threatened the assassination of the Vice President and congressional leaders, and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our nation’s history."

"Our predecessors understood that oath-breaking insurrectionists will do it again, and worse, if allowed back into power, so they enacted the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause to protect the republic from people like Trump," he added. "Trump is legally barred from the ballot and election officials must follow this constitutional mandate."

The group's lead attorney in the suit, Mark Brewer, who previously served as chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said in the statement, "The United States Constitution makes Donald Trump ineligible to run for or serve in any public office in the country, let alone President."

"All Michigan voters, including the plaintiffs, have a well-established right to have only eligible candidates on the ballot. Since Secretary of State Benson has announced that Trump will be on the primary ballot unless a court orders otherwise, we are seeking a court order preventing Trump from being on the ballot," he added.

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