U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument to Determine If Trump Should Be on the Ballot

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The central question looming over the 2024 presidential election is whether or not former President Donald Trump should, legally, be allowed on ballots across the country. At 10 a.m. today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument for Trump’s appeal from the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling to disqualify him from the state’s primary ballot. 

In September, voters in Colorado sued to remove Trump from Colorado’s primary ballot, pointing to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — a clause that bars anyone who has engaged in insurrection from holding public office. A district court judge ruled in November that Trump should be allowed to appear on the state’s ballot. The decision was appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which ruled in December that Trump shouldn’t be allowed on the state’s ballot. Naturally, Trump appealed the ruling and, on Jan. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.  

The Supreme Court’s ruling will have massive repercussions for the 2024 election, as there have been challenges to Trump’s ballot eligibility in 35 states — there are ongoing cases in 17 of them.  

Given the gravity of today’s oral argument, dozens of amicus briefs — also known as “friend-of-the-court” briefs — were filed in support of and against keeping Trump on the ballot. Two-thirds of congressional Republicans signed on to a brief that essentially said that it’s not up to the courts or state officials to determine Trump’s eligibility but something Congress should decide. While Trump’s campaign has repeatedly called the Colorado Supreme Court ruling “undemocratic,” a brief filed by the government accountability watchdog Common Cause reminds the Court that adhering to the U.S. Constitution and disqualifying Trump isn’t, in fact, “undemocratic.”

Arguing the case for Trump is Jonathan F. Mitchell, a prominent conservative lawyer who once clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Mitchell, a former solicitor general for Texas, has argued before the Supreme Court five times prior, and is credited as the mastermind behind the legal loophole to Texas’ controversial abortion ban, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act. 

Oral argument is scheduled to last for 80 minutes, with 40 minutes granted to Trump’s legal team to make his case, 30 minutes to the legal team representing the voters who believe Trump should be disqualified from the ballot and 10 minutes to Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state Jena Griswold.

One of the biggest themes Democracy Docket will be looking out for is the argument between the two sides over who has the authority to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Trump’s team asserts that it should be up to Congress — not the courts or state officials — to enforce the insurrection clause. We’ll also be keeping an eye on the Trump-appointed justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — to see if they seem persuaded by the Colorado challengers, and if Griswold’s argument has any sway on them. 

We are also keen to see if Trump’s legal team mentions the independent state legislature theory — a fringe right-wing legal theory that asserts that state legislatures have exclusive authority to regulate federal elections. The Supreme Court has already rejected this theory in a North Carolina redistricting case — Moore v. Harper — that came before the Court last year. Trump’s legal team touched upon the argument in his brief, asserting that the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling violated the will of the state Legislature and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Oral argument begins at 10 a.m. EST. Listen to the oral argument here and, as you listen, follow along on Twitter and Threads as we provide live updates during the argument. For a full breakdown of the case, read our explainer on Trump and Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. 

Read more about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment here.