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Activists Push States to Take Trump Off the Ballot Over Insurrection

The 14th Amendment bars from office any elected officials who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a Farmers for Trump campaign event at the MidAmerica Center on July 7, 2023, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

A pair of advocacy organizations that have long argued former President Donald Trump’s incitement of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol legally disqualifies him from holding office again plan to make that case with a week of rallies and banner drops beginning on Sunday.

Free Speech for People and Mi Familia Vota are among various groups and legal scholars that cite Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which bars from office anyone who has taken an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” — to assert that Trump and some congressional Republicans can’t serve in government because of the Capitol attack.

The two groups are now organizing events outside secretary of state offices in California, Colorado, Georgia, and Oregon “to make sure that they are taking a stand by disqualifying Trump in those spaces, which is something that the secretary of state can do,” Mi Familia Vota executive director Héctor Sánchez told The Hill.

The activists also focused on Nevada, and sent a related letter to Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar last month. The upcoming events are set to coincide with the 155th anniversary of the amendment’s ratification on Sunday.

“Trump is responsible for the January 6th insurrection, plain and simple,” said Alexandra Flores-Quilty, campaign director at Free Speech for People. “Failing to hold him responsible not only violates the Constitution, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for permitting violent attacks on our democracy. That’s not a risk we can afford to take.”

While disqualifying Trump — who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination for 2024 — from any ballot would be unprecedented, “we had a number of meetings with secretaries of state and we have had this discussion,” said Sánchez. “So it’s a real possibility.”

Plans for the demonstrations come as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), another group that has long charged that Trump can’t run again because of the 14th Amendment, highlighted seven past disqualifications in a Friday report.

The individuals identified by CREW include Couy Griffin, a New Mexico man ordered by a court to step down as Otero County commissioner last year after participating in the 2021 insurrection; Victor L. Berger, a Wisconsin congressman convicted under the Espionage Act whom Congress refused to seat in 1919; A.F. Gregory, a local postmaster removed by the postmaster general in 1871; and J.D. Watkins, who was disqualified from serving as a state judge in Louisiana in 1869.

Additionally, as CREW found from digging through historical records, William L. Tate, Zebulon B. Vance, and Kenneth H. Worthy — all of North Carolina — were respectively disqualified from serving as state solicitor, U.S. senator, and county sheriff in the 1860s and 1870s because they had held political positions in the Confederacy or joined its army.

As CREW noted:

Historical precedent also confirms that a criminal conviction is not required for an individual to be disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. No one who has been formally disqualified under Section 3 was charged under the criminal “rebellion or insurrection” statute (18 U.S.C. § 2383) or its predecessors. This fact is consistent with Section 3’s text, legislative history, and precedent, all of which make clear that a criminal conviction for any offense is not required for disqualification. Section 3 is not a criminal penalty, but rather is a qualification for holding public office in the United States that can be and has been enforced through civil lawsuits in state courts, among other means.

The precedent likewise confirms that one can “engage” in insurrection without personally committing violent acts. Neither Kenneth Worthy nor Couy Griffin [was] accused of engaging in violence, yet both were ruled to be disqualified because they knowingly and voluntarily aided violent insurrections.

Although Trump has not yet been criminally charged for the Capitol attack, it is still possible he could face charges as a result of an ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Jack Smith, whom U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed last year after the twice-impeached former president formally announced his 2024 campaign.

Smith is also leading a probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents, which last month resulted in 38 federal charges against the ex-president and his aide Walt Nauta. The indictment came after the Manhattan district attorney in April charged Trump with 34 felony counts involving alleged hush money payments during the 2016 election cycle.

Despite his legal trouble, 77-year-old Trump continues to dominate polls among the crowded field of Republican candidates. Although he has some longshot primary challengers, the 80-year-old Democratic incumbent, President Joe Biden, is seeking reelection and expected to face the GOP nominee next year.

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