A group of Minnesotans filed suit yesterday in the Minnesota Supreme Court to block Secretary of State Steve Simon from placing Donald Trump’s name on the 2024 primary and general election ballots. They argue that the 14th Amendment prevents insurrectionists like Trump from holding any public office.
The lawsuit, led by Free Speech For the People, alleges Trump meets this criteria and it’s asking the state’s highest court to keep him off the ballots in the presidential primary and November general election. Among the Minnesotans who filed the petition are former DFL Secretary of State Joan Growe, former state Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson and Dave Thul, former co-chair of the Steele County GOP.
…Thul, a 22-year veteran of the Minnesota National Guard, said he was “sickened” watching the attack on the capitol two years ago play out on TV. He argues the decision to file the petition is not partisan act but a pursuit for justice.
“This is about accountability and about justice and if you support the Constitution, I think there’s no way to get around address this issue. And ultimately what we’re asking for is for the courts to decide,” he told WCCO [Caroline Cummings, “Group Files to Block Trump from Minnesota’s 2024 Ballot Under ‘Insurrection Clause’ of 14th Amendment,” WCCO-TV, 2023.09.12].
Thul’s Minnesota GOP leader responds by deeming the United States Constitution a “fringe legal theory“:
Minnesota GOP party chair David Hann provided the following statement to MPR News.
“The Republican Party of Minnesota believes that voters in Minnesota should ultimately decide through voting which candidates are qualified to represent them in public office. The Minnesota Supreme Court should reject this fringe legal theory which is purposefully designed to prevent voters from having a voice in our elections” [Mike Zdechlik and Dana Ferguson, “Minnesota Lawsuit Seeks to Keep Trump off 2024 Ballot,” MPR News, 2023.09.12].
The 14th Amendment is not a fringe legal theory. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is arguably more direct, clear, and less open for debate than the First and Second Amendment:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, 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. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability [United States Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 3, ratified 1868.07.09].
If you have taken an oath to support the Constitution (Trump did, once), and if you insurrected against the Constitution (Trump has, more than once) or given aid and comfort to insurrectionists (Trump has, in many ways), you don’t get to hold another federal or state office unless two-thirds of each chamber of Congress say you can (and Congress has not and will not issue Trump any such get-out-of-insurrection-free card). That’s not fringe legal theory; that’s a clear statement that attempting to thwart the United States Constitution disqualifies the thwarter from public office.
Amendment 14 Section 3 is as clear a criterion for Presidential eligibility as Article 2 Section 1, which states the President must be a natural born citizen at least 35 years old. The Minnesota GOP, echoing an argument Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made in the papers last week, contends we must let voters decide who is qualified to be President. But the Constitution sets limits on voters’ choices for President. Voters can’t elect an 18-year-old President. Voters can’t elect Vladimir Putin (though the minority who voted for Trump pretty much did that in 2016). Voters can’t elect an insurrectionist. And secretaries of state can’t put 18-year-olds, Vladimir Putin, or insurrectionists like Donald Trump on our Presidential ballots any more than South Dakota’s Secretary of State could put impeached and convicted Jason Ravnsborg’s name on a ballot. Voters cannot override the Constitution. To contend otherwise is to disrespect the rule of law and endorse mobocracy.
Republicans tell us we have to place the American Constitution before anything else. The Minnesotans suing to keep Trump off the ballot are doing just that.