Former President Donald Trump, who is currently facing 91 criminal charges in four states, is likely to appear on the Arizona ballot in 2024, despite arguments that his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection disqualifies him from running for office.
Widely considered to be the frontrunner in the Republican Party’s bid for the White House, Trump’s candidacy has been subject to skepticism from constitutional experts, who point to the 14th Amendment as proof that he should be kicked off the ballot.
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A clause in the amendment, written to bar Confederate leaders from assuming power in the U.S. government after the Civil War, forbids anyone that “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from winning public office. That reasoning has given rise to lawsuits in multiple states seeking to keep Trump off the ballot and caused uncertainty for election officials charged with certifying candidates ahead of 2024.
In the Grand Canyon State, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes told KTAR in September that his office was mulling Trump’s legal eligibility for the ballot. And while the Arizona Supreme Court ruled last year that the anti-insurrectionist provision couldn’t be used against politicians involved in the Jan. 6 incident because there was no corresponding federal statute to enforce it, Fontes noted that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution likely overruled that decision.
But on Wednesday, Fontes announced in an interview on Fox 10 Phoenix that his hands are tied by Arizona law. State law directs the secretary of state to certify candidates who both file to appear on the ballot in Arizona 100 days before the presidential preference election and were approved for the ballots of at least two other states.
“At the end of the day, having consulted with legal experts, having consulted with election experts — the biggest objections to Mr. Trump, by the way, are from the conservative right and the Federalist Society guys,” Fontes said. “They do not want him on the ballot. But I’m sorry I’m going to have to disappoint them because that’s state statute.”
The presidential preference election in Arizona is in March, giving Trump until early December to apply for a spot on the ballot.
Paul Smith-Leonard, a spokesman for Fontes, said the the secretary of state is continuing to track the issue of Trump’s candidacy in regards to objections under the Fourteenth Amendment, but reiterated that Fontes feels it’s his duty to certify Trump as long as he meets the requirements under state law.
Zoom out: Hesitancy in other states, courts
The Grand Canyon State isn’t alone in questioning the eligibility of Trump’s candidacy. Lawsuits based in the Fourteenth Amendment argument have been filed in Colorado, Florida, Michigan and West Virginia by watchdog groups, activists and even a Republican write-in candidate.
And organizations critical of Trump’s eligibility have urged election officials to look into the matter in at least eight states, but state leaders are unwilling to take a hardline position until the courts weigh in — and movement on that front has so far been equally slow. A federal judge dismissed the Florida lawsuit in August, but fell short of ruling on the Fourteenth Amendment question.
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