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Lawsuit aims to disqualify Trump from Michigan ballot

Donald Trump in Michigan
Trump held a campaign rally in Michigan earlier this week, seeking support from blue-collar workers in Macomb County. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Lawsuit argues Trump should be disqualified from seeking office under Civil War-era insurrection clause 
  • Similar challenges have been filed in other states, including Minnesota and Colorado
  • Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said she will leave decision on whether Trump qualifies to courts

A lawsuit filed in the Michigan Court of Claims Friday challenges former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to be on the 2024 ballot, citing a Civil War-era clause in the Constitution that disqualifies public officials who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. 

The suit, filed by the national group Free Speech For People and attorney Mark Brewer, claims that Trump’s actions ahead of and during the Jan. 6, 2021 riots in the U.S. Capitol violated section three of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that any officeholder who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort” to such efforts after swearing an oath to uphold the Constitution is barred from running.


Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 election following his loss to President Joe Biden, his pressuring of former Vice President Mike Pence to reject the electoral certification of results and his lack of intervention when supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 amount to insurrection under the clause, the filing argues. 


“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,” Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech For People, said in a Friday statement announcing the suit.

The legal theory that Trump’s actions could block him from holding future office has already spurred lawsuits in several states, and is separate from the pending criminal cases Trump is facing at the federal level and in two states. 

Free Speech For People recently brought a similar suit to the Michigan filing in Minnesota, and a separate group’s challenge is pending in Colorado. A Fourteenth Amendment challenge to Trump’s candidacy was dismissed by a federal judge in Florida for lack of standing.

Trump has argued that efforts to prevent him from appearing on the ballot are “election interference.” 

In response to the Colorado filing, attorneys for Trump argued the case should be dismissed due to freedom of speech protections in the First Amendment, and also argued that the clause doesn’t apply to him because it “applies to one who ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion,’ not one who only ‘instigated’ any action.”


Michigan is considered a key swing state in presidential races, and both Trump and Biden made appearances in Southeast Michigan this week. 

Activists have called on election officials in several states to take the step of disqualifying Trump without court action, although most have been reluctant to do so. 

In a Washington Post opinion column published earlier this month, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wrote that Trump would be on the ballot unless a state or federal court determined otherwise, arguing the decision isn’t and shouldn’t be up to her or other secretaries of state.

The Michigan filing challenging Trump’s candidacy was assigned to Court of Claims Judge Brock Swartzle Friday and remains pending before the court.

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