The Oregon Supreme Court will soon decide whether to remove Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballots because of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”
A liberal advocacy group, Free Speech For People, filed the Oregon lawsuit last month on behalf of a group of voters. They went directly to the state’s top court and asked the justices to remove Trump from the ballot because he incited the January 6 insurrection.
The Oregon justices could rule at any time now that all the filings have been submitted.
This is the latest major challenge to Trump’s candidacy, after a dizzying few weeks with contradictory outcomes in different states, and a pending US Supreme Court appeal.
Colorado’s Supreme Court and Maine’s secretary of state removed Trump from the ballot based on the post-Civil War provision against insurrectionists holding office, though appeals are underway. Trump prevailed in several states, including Michigan and Minnesota, where top courts threw out similar lawsuits on procedural grounds.
The 14th Amendment, which was ratified after the Civil War, says US officials who take an oath to uphold the Constitution are disqualified from future office if they “engaged in insurrection” or have “given aid or comfort” to insurrectionists. However, the Constitution does not spell out how to enforce this ban, it has barely been touched since the late 1800s, and there are open legal questions about how it applies to the presidency.
Last week, the Oregon justices asked the parties to file additional arguments about whether the challengers had standing to file the lawsuit, and also about the role of the secretary of state in vetting the qualifications of candidates in a presidential primary.
“Granting the petition will protect (the anti-Trump challengers’) liberty interest in voting in a lawfully-conducted election without the risk of major voter confusion or votes ‘wasted’ upon ineligible or disqualified candidates who appear on the ballot,” the challengers wrote in a filing Tuesday night, arguing that they have standing to bring the lawsuit.
They also said past Oregon Supreme Court precedents support their case. As recently as 2022, the justices “reaffirmed the Secretary (of State’s) role in removing ineligible candidates from the primary ballot” when they upheld the decision to disqualify New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof from the governor’s race over residency issues.
Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade previously asked the court to toss the case on procedural grounds. She said this isn’t the right time to scrutinize Trump’s eligibility – because the state law that requires her to determine if an existing candidate has “become disqualified” only applies to the general election, not the GOP primary.
Lawyers for Trump claim the voters who filed the suit don’t have standing. They also agree with Griffin-Valade’s view that she can’t vet his qualifications for the primary.
Griffin-Valade, a Democrat, has said in court filings that names for the Republican primary ballot must be finalized by March 21. The Oregon primary is on May 21.
However, the impact of potentially removing Trump from the primary ballot may be limited. Oregon is one of the final states to hold its GOP contest, so the nomination race may already be decided by then. And Oregon’s delegates to the Republican convention will be allocated based on the results of the separate state party convention on May 25.
All seven justices on the Oregon Supreme Court were appointed by Democratic governors. However, after their appointment, justices are required to eventually stand for election against any potential challengers in a statewide race. Four of the seven justices have already won elections to stay on the bench; three haven’t faced voters yet.