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Justice Elena Kagan asked a decisive question Thursday during oral arguments in the Colorado presidential ballot access case concerning former President Donald Trump.
In December, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump, the GOP front-runner in this year’s presidential race, was ineligible to be on the ballot in the state, concluding he participated in an “insurrection” and therefore is disqualified from holding federal office under Section 3 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The amendment was ratified in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War, and Section 3 prevented former supporters of the Confederacy, who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies” of the United States, from holding political office.
The Colorado Supreme Court concluded, in a 4-3 decision, that Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incursion amounted to participation in an insurrection.
It is a violation of federal law to engage in a rebellion or insurrection, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Trump supporters have noted that he has not been charged with, much less convicted of, any such crime.
During oral arguments Thursday, Kagan, a liberal appointed to the court by then-President Barack Obama in 2009, told Jason Murray, the attorney representing Colorado voters, “Most boldly, I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States.”
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