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Lead petitioner in Trump Colorado ballot case says the U.S Supreme Court ruling was based on fear not facts

Supreme Court rejects attempt by some Colorado voters to disqualify Trump from ballot
Supreme Court rejects attempt by some Colorado voters to disqualify Trump from ballot 03:37

On the eve of Colorado's presidential primary, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a Colorado Supreme Court decision, ruling that former President Donald Trump can be on the state's primary ballot and votes for him will count.

The high court's decision shuts the door on dozens of similar challenges to Trump's eligibility and is a stinging rebuke of the Colorado Supreme Court, which said Trump couldn't run for president because he'd engaged in an insurrection.

While the justices disagreed on exactly what it would take to keep an insurrectionist off the ballot, they all agreed states do not have the power to disqualify a federal candidate for office.

Trump said it's a "big win for America."

RELATED: Supreme Court says Trump can appear on 2024 ballot, overturning Colorado ruling

The lead petitioner, 91-year-old Norma Anderson -- a former Republican state senator -- accused the court of making a decision based on fear not facts: "They don't deserve to sit on that bench if they can't have courage."

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments In Trump Ballot Case
Norma Anderson, lead plaintiff in Trump v. Anderson, speaks with members of the media outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The lawsuit hinged on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars oath-breaking insurrectionists from holding office. The justices didn't touch the insurrectionist question. Their ruling was confined to who could enforce Section 3.

"States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office," the majority wrote, "but they have no power to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency."

Anderson disagreed: "We run the elections, pardon me."

But the justices said deciding the manner of elections is not the same as deciding qualifications for federal office. Section 3, they noted, was meant to limit, not expand, the power of states to elect confederates to office after the Civil War.

"Given that context," the three liberal justices wrote, "it would defy logic for Section 3 to give states new powers to determine who may hold the presidency."

What's more, the justices said, state-by-state enforcement of Section 3 would result in a chaotic patchwork that could "nullify the votes of millions and change the election result."

But Justices Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett said the majority opinion went too far in requiring congressional legislation to enforce Section 3, noting there may be other means of federal enforcement.

RELATED: The Supreme Court ruled in the Trump ballot eligibility case. Here's the full text of the opinion.

Anderson worried about the message the opinion might send.

"What it does is give more power to the people to do more insurrections," she said.

Kagan, Jackson and Sotomayor said that by requiring congressional legislation to disqualify an alleged insurrectionist, the majority opinion essentially protects those individuals from challenges to their eligibility. They said the case cried out for judicial restraint and the majority failed to deliver that.

Justice Barrett agreed, saying "the writings of the court should turn the temperature down, not up."

But on the main point of whether Colorado can kick Trump off the ballot -- the justices unanimously agreed.

While it is a big win for Trump, it's just the beginning of his legal troubles. The Supreme Court will debate whether he is immune from criminal prosecution next month. He faces 91 felony charges in four criminal cases. If he's convicted, it raises a host of other questions. While some states bar felons from running for state and local office, those laws don't apply to federal office. And while Trump could pardon himself on federal charges, two of the cases are based on state charges.

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