Monday, April 15, 2024

NC voter’s appeal rendered null with Supreme Court decision to allow Trump on ballot

States cannot bar Trump from election ballot, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s Monday ruling. (Port City Daily/file photo)

WILMINGTON — A North Carolina voter’s challenge to former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to hold office will not move forward in Wake County court after Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the matter.

READ MORE: NC voter appeals state BOE’s denial of Trump’s candidacy to superior court

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled former President Donald Trump should remain on Colorado’s primary ballot. 

The ruling reverses the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar Trump from the ballot on the basis of the Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bans insurrectionists from holding office. According to the court, only the federal government has the authority to enforce Section 3, not states. 

The decision will also reverse Maine and Illinois’ rulings barring Trump from the primary ballot. Almost 15 other states, including North Carolina, had pending challenges in litigation, while almost 20 other states have dismissed or rejected a challenge. 

North Carolina’s challenge was made on Dec. 18 by Stoke County resident Brian Martin. The North Carolina State Board of Elections dismissed the challenge the following day, citing a lack of authority to hear it. It determined Martin could petition the courts to take up the challenge; he submitted his appeal in Wake County Superior Court the next day. 

Martin provided a 24-page explanation of how Trump violated the 14th Amendment, and like other challenges, focuses on Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021. He argues that Trump, who lost the 2020 election against President Joe Biden, encouraged his supporters to fight what the former president believed was a stolen election. The attackers stormed the Capitol building in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College votes in the 2020 election. It resulted in 100 injured law enforcement officers and four deaths.

In August, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Trump on four federal felonies recommended by a House committee investigation — obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to knowingly make a false statement; and assisting, aiding or comforting an insurrection. The case is currently on hold while the Supreme Court hears a case on whether Trump should be immune to prosecution.

Though the highest court endorsed the argument that only Congress can enforce Section 3, the court did not endorse two other components in the case: that Section 3 didn’t apply to the presidency, that Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection or that Trump didn’t engage in it.

Those arguments in relation to Trump’s eligibility are still up for debate, but only by Congress. 

The issue of how this is handled is where the justices diverged in their opinions. Four justices claimed the majority opinion went too far by requiring Congressional action to be able to enforce Section 3. In an unsigned opinion, a five-justice majority said detailed federal legislation was required to determine a candidate’s qualifications under Section 3.

In a joint concurring opinion, the court’s left wing represented by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson stated: 

“Although federal enforcement of Section 3 is in no way at issue, the majority announces novel rules for how that enforcement must operate. It reaches out to decide Section 3 questions not before us, and to foreclose future efforts to disqualify a presidential candidate under that provision. In a sensitive case crying out for judicial restraint, it abandons that course.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote her own concurring opinion agreeing the majority had overreached. 

The ruling clears up Trump’s ballot appearance only one day before the Primary Election is held in North Carolina, Maine, Colorado and other states. However, Martin’s appeal foreshadows a problem if Congress does move to block Trump from holding office in the future.

“The voters in the Republican primary on March 5, 2024, have a right to choose from constitutionally eligible candidates,” Martin wrote in his appeal. “If one were to vote for Donald Trump, and he is not eligible to hold the office of President, then their vote will not count. Their vote will be a wasted vote, will not play a part in the selection of the next President, and such a result is constitutionally unacceptable.”

More than 670,000 votes were cast in North Carolina during early voting this year. 

Though void now, Martin’s case could have far-reaching consequences for the state. In reaction to Martin’s challenge and Colorado’s ruling, State House Speaker Tim Moore told the News & Observer he wants to pass a new law banning the State Board of Elections from being able to disqualify any candidates for office.

Taking it one step farther than Moore, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis said he’d also file legislation stripping federal elections funding from any state that cites the 14th Amendment as a reason to ban Trump, or any other nominee, from the ballot. He introduced it on Jan. 11.


Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com.

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