EDITORIAL: In our democratic system voters deserve the right to determine Trump’s fate

Former President Donald Trump points to supporters during rally Dec. 19, 2023, in Waterloo, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)
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The 2024 presidential election promises to be one of if not the most chaotic in our nation’s history. The Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine secretary of state have taken former president Donald Trump’s name off their primary ballots. They based their rulings on their determination that Trump’s actions and words on Jan. 6, 2021, contributed to the assault on the U.S. Capitol and members of Congress and qualified as participation or promotion of an insurrection against the government. The Michigan Supreme Court, on the other hand, decided that Trump should remain on that state’s ballots. In the coming weeks other states will make similar rulings, and it’s likely that their own decisions will be split as well.

Most likely, Texas will keep the former president on its March 5 primary ballots.

The split decisions will affect the allocation of electoral votes and could determine the outcome of the November general election.

A page from the appeal by former President Donald Trump asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Colorado Supreme Court’s finding that an insurrection clause in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment renders Trump ineligible to be on the state’s ballot over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack, is photographed Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. (Jon Elswick/AP Photo)

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it does not plan to expedite its consideration of the matter, which means some states will have held their primaries before they issue a ruling. The court should reconsider its decision to delay the matter, or at least issue an injunction keeping Trump on the ballots pending its decision. Otherwise, Congress could consider making a similar ruling.

Trump’s absence from some states’ ballots surely will deprive him of enough electoral votes to retake the presidency, Certainly he has enough committed followers that he will get a significant number of write-in votes, but they likely won’t be enough to win those states, even he’s likely to take several states including Texas. Most state primaries are winner-take-all affairs, so Trump’s placement in those states’ primaries and caucuses won’t help him.

The states’ rulings invoke Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that anyone who has previously sworn to support the Constitution and later engages in insurrection or rebellion against it can’t hold public office.

The amendment does provide that two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress can override the prohibition.

Inconsistency among the states would only feed Trump’s assertion that the process is rigged against him, and illegitimate. And even though many officials and influential people, including Trump, already have worked to undermine the electoral process, it remains the primary and preferred means of electing our officials.

Our nation was built on the premise that government requires consent of the government. Where doubt and confusion reign, it’s best to let the voters decide.

Primaries are merely the way the two major parties choose their candidates; the official election doesn’t occur until November. With different states reaching differing opinions, we need a final determination of whether or not Trump engaged in or promoted the insurrection. If the final determination is that he did and he wins the Republican Party nomination, he can be removed from the general election ballot and replaced with the runner-up. Until then, due process requires that he enjoy the benefits of innocence, and remain on his party’s primary ballots.