With the Trump Disqualification, Ballot Access Barrier Chickens Come Home to Roost

Photo by Tyler Merbler. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Tyler Merbler. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

On December 19, Colorado’s Supreme Court deemed former president Donald Trump ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 Republican presidential primary ballot. In a 4-3 ruling, the court held that Trump had engaged in “insurrection” and was therefore disqualified from returning to the presidency per the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection” clause.

Most opinion and analysis on this ruling (and other, similar cases working their way through other states’ court systems) revolves around particular questions:

Was the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot an insurrection?

If so, did Trump incite and/or support it? Did his attempts, outside the context of the riot, to invalidate the election results, constitute part of an insurrection scheme?

Is the president an “officer” “under” the United States as referred to in the insurrection clause?

Can state courts enforce that clause based on civil determinations of the answers to those questions, or is a criminal conviction and/or federal determination required?

Interesting questions indeed, and that they’re even under serious consideration seems to bolster the case that the United States may be headed for some kind of “national divorce” scenario, possibly entailing civil war.

I’ve got another question to add to the mix:

Did anyone really believe America’s “major parties” would never get around to using ballot access barriers against each other?

Those barriers began to go up in the 1890s with adoption of the “Australian ballot” — a uniform ballot printed by the government subdivision holding an election.

Prior to that, all votes were, essentially, “write-ins.” You hand-wrote your ballot, or dictated it to an election official with a witness if you couldn’t write, or cast a ballot printed by your political party or association of choice.

Once the government started printing   ballots, the government got to decide who could be ON those ballots. Ever since, the “major” parties have increasingly and enthusiastically abused that power with onerous signature requirements, filing fees, and other restrictions to ensure that only Republicans and Democrats have a very good shot at getting elected in most races.

Now Democrats and “never-Trump” Republicans want to use that same power to tell Americans — more than 74 million of whom voted for Trump in 2020 — that they’re not entitled to vote for their candidate of choice,  a former president and a “major” party front-runner.

And by the way, they’re doing it in the name of “protecting democracy.”

At some point,  a dialectical analysis might predict, “democracy” collapses under the weight of such internal contradictions.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.