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The 2024 Presidential Ballot and the 14th Amendment

October 02, 2023

“Hand your republic over to the enemies of democracy, and it could take a hundred years to get it back,” writes Prof. Kermit Roosevelt at the Los Angeles Times.

At the Los Angeles Times, Kermit Roosevelt, David Berger Professor for the Administration of Justice, explores the arguments supporting legal efforts to use the 14th Amendment to keep Donald Trump off the 2024 presidential ballot.

Roosevelt works in a diverse range of fields, focusing on constitutional law and conflict of laws. He has published scholarly books in both fields. In his most recent book, The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America’s Story, Roosevelt argues that our country’s fundamental values, particularly equality, are not part of the Founders’ vision. Instead, they were stated in President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and were the hope of Reconstruction, a time envisioning a nation committed to liberty and equality.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Efforts to use the 14th Amendment to keep Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot are moving forward across the country. Lawsuits have been filed in Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and California; lawmakers in California have asked the state attorney general to seek a court opinion on the subject.

Under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, anyone who took an oath to support the Constitution and then engaged in insurrection against the United States is prohibited from holding federal office. Those pressing the suits argue that the section disqualifies Trump from the presidency because of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Excluding one of the leading presidential candidates from the election is a momentous possibility that raises many questions. Some are relatively easy to answer; others require a deeper look into the history of the country and the amendment at issue.

Let’s start with some easy ones. Opponents of disqualification argue that Section 3 can’t be applied without a criminal conviction or a federal statute enforcing it. They’ve even claimed that it doesn’t cover the president because he is not an officer of the United States.

These objections are insubstantial in my view. No other constitutional qualification for the presidency — such as being at least 35 years old and a natural-born citizen — requires a court finding or a statute to take effect. No other section of the 14th Amendment requires enforcement legislation. And someone who holds the office of the president is pretty clearly an officer of the United States.

How Section 3 should be enforced, and by whom, is a slightly harder question, but the answer is already emerging… . 

Read Roosevelt’s full piece at the Los Angeles Times.