During a recent Supreme Court hearing, Justice Clarence Thomas posed a series of probing questions to Jason Murray, the attorney representing Colorado voters. The case at hand delved into Colorado’s decision to exclude former President Donald Trump from the ballot, citing the Fourteenth Amendment’s “Insurrection Clause.” While the court broadly expressed skepticism over a state’s power to remove a presidential candidate from its ballot, Thomas focused particularly on this issue during an exchange with Murray.
Murray argued for state authority in disqualifying national candidates, but when pressed by Thomas for historical precedents, he struggled to provide concrete examples. Thomas highlighted the post-Reconstruction era and the presence of former Confederates in politics as a context where disqualifications might have occurred, yet no instances of national candidates being disqualified were presented by Murray.
Murray acknowledged that while there were cases of Congress refusing to seat national candidates, it didn’t align with the current scenario. Thomas emphasized the specificity of national candidates, pointing out the absence of examples where states took action to disqualify such individuals based on the Fourteenth Amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts also weighed in, suggesting that the Fourteenth Amendment’s primary intent was to limit state power and enhance federal authority, making it counterintuitive for states, especially those with Confederate pasts, to have implicit authority to police presidential elections.
This discourse underscores the complexity of interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment in the context of modern electoral politics and the ongoing debate over states’ roles in national elections. The case, Trump v. Anderson, No. 23-719, continues to attract attention for its potential implications on electoral processes and constitutional law.