Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on September 6, 2023 in New York City.

(Photo: James Devaney/GC Images)

Minnesota Voters File 14th Amendment Suit to Keep Trump Off Ballot

"Donald Trump engaged in an insurrection in an effort to overthrow our democracy," said one of the petitioners. "We must enforce the Constitution to make sure he never has the opportunity to do so again."

Just days after Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he can't bar former President Donald Trump from any ballot "unless a court says otherwise," a legal advocacy group on Tuesday filed a lawsuit on behalf of voters seeking such an order for the 2024 primary and general elections.

Trump remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, despite being indicted in four criminal cases this year—two of which relate to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, which culminated in the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

Free Speech for People (FSFP)—which, along with Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, has led a "Trump Is Disqualified" campaign—filed the petition in the Minnesota Supreme Court. The group represents eight state residents, including former political leaders.

"Trump is legally barred from the ballot and election officials must follow this constitutional mandate."

Like the national campaign and a similar legal battle in Colorado launched last week by the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the Minnesota case relies on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has taken an oath to the U.S. Constitution and then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" from holding any civil or military office.

"Donald J. Trump, through his words and actions, after swearing an oath as an officer of the United States to support the Constitution, engaged in insurrection or rebellion, or gave aid and comfort to its enemies, as defined by Section 3 of the 14th Amendment," the new petition argues. "He is disqualified from holding the presidency or any other office under the United States unless and until Congress provides him relief."

After losing in November 2020 to Democratic candidate Joe Biden—who is now seeking reelection—Trump "disseminated false allegations of fraud and challenged election results through litigation," the petition details. "When his election lawsuits failed, he attempted unlawful schemes, including pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to discard electoral votes from states that had voted for President-elect Biden."

"To pressure Pence, Trump summoned tens of thousands of supporters to Washington for what he called a 'wild' protest on January 6, 2021, the day that Congress would count and certify the electoral votes," the filing continues. "Although Trump knew that these supporters were angry and that many were armed, Trump incited them to a violent insurrection and instructed them to march to the Capitol to 'take back' their country."

FSFP legal director Ron Fein declared Tuesday that "Donald Trump violated his oath of office and incited a violent insurrection that attacked the U.S. Capitol, threatened the assassination of the vice president and congressional leaders, and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our nation's history."

"Our predecessors understood that oath-breaking insurrectionists will do it again, and worse, if allowed back into power, so they enacted the insurrectionist disqualification clause to protect the republic from people like Trump," he added. "Trump is legally barred from the ballot and election officials must follow this constitutional mandate."

That sentiment was shared by Minneapolis attorney Charlie Nauen of Lockridge Grindal Nauen, co-counsel for the petitioners, as well as some of the petitioners themselves.

"Voting is the foundation of our American democracy," asserted petitioner Joan Growe, a former Minnesota secretary of state. "This petition is the continuation of my work as secretary of state to protect our democracy and uphold the United States Constitution."

Petitioner David Thul, a 22-year veteran of the Minnesota National Guard who served in Iraq, said that "I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I firmly believe this petition is in keeping with that oath. Donald Trump engaged in an insurrection in an effort to overthrow our democracy. We must enforce the Constitution to make sure he never has the opportunity to do so again."

The other petitioners are Paul Anderson, a former associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; retired labor union official Thomas Beer; David Fisher, who teaches at University of Minnesota Law School; Thomas Welna, an ex-St. Paul deputy mayor; and registered voters Vernae Hasbargen and Ellen Young.

The respondent is Simon, due to his role as secretary of state. In his statement last Thursday, the Democrat said that "over the past several weeks, my office has received hundreds of emails, calls, and letters regarding a legal argument that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution calls into question the eligibility" of Trump.

Simon explained that his office "does not have legal authority to investigate a candidate's eligibility," but Minnesota law "allows one or more people to challenge in court the eligibility of a candidate to appear on a ballot." He also pledged that that "our office will continue to honor the outcome of that process, as we have in the past."

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