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Trump appeals ruling barring him from the Colorado ballot to the U.S. Supreme Court

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Dec. 16, 2023, in Durham, N.H.
Reba Saldanha
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Dec. 16, 2023, in Durham, N.H.

Updated January 3, 2024 at 5:22 PM ET

Former President Donald Trump has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a landmark decision by Colorado's top court that ruled him ineligible from appearing on that state's primary ballot.

Trump's appeal to the nation's high court, filed Wednesday, was expected after the Colorado Supreme Court last month barred the former president from the ballot because of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that ended with the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The court cited a section of the 14th Amendment, which says candidates are ineligible from holding public office if they've "engaged in insurrection."

The historic decision in Colorado — for which the justices acknowledged they were "in uncharted territory" — was the first to bar Trump from a ballot among numerous challenges to his candidacy in states across the country.

Maine has since become the second, after the Democratic secretary of state ruled Trump ineligible under the 14th Amendment as well. Trump on Tuesday also appealed that decision in the Maine state court system.

Trump has cast the decisions as part of a larger effort by his political opponents to interfere with his 2024 presidential campaign. He faces more than 90 criminal charges in four venues, including federal charges for trying to overturn the 2020 contest he lost.

"We urge a clear, summary rejection of the Colorado Supreme Court's wrongful ruling and the execution of a free and fair election this November," Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement after Trump asked for the U.S. Supreme Court's intervention.

The Colorado Republican Party had already appealed the state court's opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the group that brought the ballot challenge in Colorado, said it has "already asked the Court to move quickly to give voters across the country the answers they need about this urgent question."

The Colorado justices stayed their ruling pending U.S. Supreme Court review, meaning that Trump will indeed appear on the state's primary ballot unless the nation's top court declines to take up the case, or agrees with the Colorado decision. The state's primary ballot is set to be certified on Friday.

The Maine secretary of state also suspended the effect of her decision, giving state courts the chance to hear an appeal.

Election officials and legal scholars have long said the country's high court needs to weigh in on the myriad 14th Amendment challenges before voters cast ballots in presidential primaries.

"The 2024 election is going to be hard enough as it is," Guy-Uriel Charles, a Harvard law professor, told NPR recently. "So the sooner we know what the fundamental rules are, the better off that we're going to be. It's critical for the court to resolve this as soon as it possibly can."

The U.S. Supreme Court is primed to play a significant role in the election, between Trump's ballot eligibility and his claims of presidential immunity, among other consequential decisions awaiting their review. Trump himself nominated three of the justices on the bench.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment dates back to the years after the Civil War, and was enacted to prevent former members of the Confederacy from holding elected office. It has been used minimally in the more than 150 years since.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ben Swasey is an editor on the Washington Desk who mostly covers politics and voting.