Colorado Ruling Reverberations: Why Removing Trump From the Ballot Does and Doesn’t Matter

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By Jim Ellis — Friday, Dec. 22, 2023


Former President Donald Trump / Photo by Gage Skidmore

Colorado Republicans Pivot: Caucus Format Considered — A decision by The Colorado State Supreme Court Wednesday barred former President Donald Trump from the primary 2024 ballot because the justices maintained he violated the 14th Amendment by engaging in insurrection; this ruling predictably has ignited fierce responses.

The Trump campaign says they are immediately appealing the ruling to the US Supreme Court. Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy says he will withdraw from the Colorado ballot in protest and urges the other Republican presidential candidates to do the same. The Colorado Republican Party leadership is saying they may eschew the presidential primary and move to an internal party-run caucus format.

Since the political parties control their own nomination processes, the Colorado Republicans would have the authority to change from the primary format to a caucus. The party would then also slate its own candidates to compete for the presidential nomination. In the absence of a US Supreme Court ruling overturning the Colorado decision, changing to a caucus would likely be the party’s best option for giving Trump an opportunity to compete for Centennial State delegate votes.

Other state Supreme Courts, most notably Arizona and Minnesota, also have ruled on Trump’s ballot status and they arrived at the opposite conclusion to the Colorado high court, thus allowing him to compete in their state primaries. Even if the Colorado ruling stands and Trump is not on the state’s primary or general election ballot, it is unlikely to affect the presidential race outcome there. President Joe Biden is a lock to carry Colorado with or without Trump’s name on the ballot, so the national electoral vote count won’t change regardless of how the present controversy is ultimately resolved.

We could again see this issue arise in the general election. The states have the power to accept or reject the political party nominees for ballot placement, so it is conceivable the state Supreme Court could deny Trump ballot access in the general election along the same lines of reasoning present in their current decision.

Should the 14th Amendment controversy carry over to the general election, that would not do particular harm to the down-ballot Republicans, or even Trump for that matter. The former president is not going to win Colorado in the November election, so not appearing on the ballot here would have little effect on the national electoral vote count.

For the down-ballot Republicans not having to run with an unpopular Trump in their state, and with the former president’s voters likely incensed that he was barred from participating, the turnout pattern may actually improve for the Colorado Republican congressional, state Senate, and state House candidates if the former president were to be denied the ability to compete.

If other states were to follow Colorado’s lead, again absent a US Supreme Court ruling, it would likely only be in strong blue states, or those where Trump is clearly not going to win. Likewise, down ballot Republicans in those states may actually fare better, particularly in a place like California, then they would with Trump at the top of their ticket.

It is probable that the general election scenario described above, and very possibly even the primary situation, will not denigrate to the degree of a former president being denied ballot access because the US Supreme Court will likely face enough pressure to hear the Trump appeal and issue a ruling.

Since the former president was not charged with insurrection in any of his indictments and was even acquitted of such when it was part of the second impeachment proceeding, legal analysts believe that there is a better than even chance that the high court will rule in his favor and order the Trump name to appear on ballots across the nation.

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