Inside California Dems' Effort to Boot Trump From Ballot

Group asks state attorney general to expedite court ruling on former president's eligibility
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2023 10:30 AM CDT
Inside California Dems' Effort to Boot Trump From Ballot
Democratic Assembly Member Evan Low is seen in Sacramento, California, on June 30.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Nine Democrats in California are seeking an expedited court ruling that could bar former President Donald Trump from the March 5 presidential primary ballot, claiming he's ineligible to resume office. The lawmakers—who echo conservative law scholars in arguing Trump may have violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies an official from public office if they "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the Constitution after taking an oath to defend it—have written to state Attorney General Rob Bonta, noting he's "uniquely positioned to proactively seek the court's opinion to confirm Mr. Trump's inability to hold office." As the New York Times notes, Section 3 targeted Confederate politicians after the Civil War and is largely untested in the modern era.

Still, the lawmakers say it applies to Trump, who allegedly sought to overturn the 2020 election results and encouraged the Jan. 6 insurrection. Though there are other efforts to keep Trump off state ballots, largely directed at secretaries of state, this one is unique "because Bonta could use his standing as California's top law enforcement officer to expedite a state court ruling on the matter," per Politico. Rep. Evan Low, who wrote the letter co-signed by seven colleagues in the California Assembly and one member of the California Senate, argues other efforts to remove Trump from the ballot could be considered antidemocratic, per the Times. He adds an ordinary lawsuit wouldn't resolve the issue by Dec. 8, when eligible candidates for the ballot must be announced.

"The purpose of this letter is to request in haste the office of the attorney general seek the court opinion as to whether or not Donald J. Trump should be removed from the ballot of the presidential primary election," the letter states. "This naturally will be seen as a political effort, but again, that's why the court's opinion will be incredibly important," Low says. In a statement, Bonta's office said it "will review the request internally." It added: "There is no denying that Donald Trump has engaged in behavior that is unacceptable and unbecoming of any leader—let alone a president of the United States. Beyond that, we have no additional comment." If Bonta does make the request of the court and the court determines Trump is ineligible, a legal battle would surely result and could wind up at the Supreme Court. (More California stories.)

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