By Joanna Button
What’s happening: Two nonprofit groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Free Speech for People, are trying to bar former President Donald Trump from appearing on Republican primary ballots because he “engaged in insurrection” on January 6, 2021.
The clause: The groups are applying Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies anyone from public office who, after taking an oath to support the Constitution, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States. The clause was formerly applied to Jefferson Davis for leading the Confederacy in the Civil War.
The efforts: CREW and Free Speech for People have sent letters to election officials and prepared lawsuits, seeking to ban Trump from ballots state by state. Lawyers say the case could end up in federal court or the Supreme Court. Trump’s legal team is already preparing to fight these cases.
Do their efforts stand a chance? Experts disagree on Section 3’s applicability to the former president. Proving in court that January 6 was indeed an “insurrection” would be difficult, and some argue that it would take an act of Congress to apply the clause to the Capitol riot and Trump. The lawsuits also can’t be filed until Trump applies for or is granted ballot access later this year, giving courts mere months to decide on the case before the primary elections.
Potential outcome: The cases in blue states could pose serious legal challenges for Trump, though some lawyers believe the groups may instead target swing states and red states. A Trump spokesperson called these efforts “blatant election interference and tampering,” though it may boost Republican support of Trump—much like his recent indictment boosted his standing in the polls.