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Activists seek to disqualify Trump from ballot in key states

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(The Hill) – Two civil rights organizations are launching a campaign to pressure state governments to disqualify former President Trump from appearing on ballots in 2024.

The groups say secretaries of state are empowered by the 14th Amendment to bar Trump from running for office because of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.

Starting Sunday, Mi Familia Vota and Free Speech for People will stage a week of rallies and banner drops outside the offices of the secretaries of state of California, Oregon, Colorado and Georgia.

The groups also penned a letter to Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar last month, calling on him to block Trump under what’s known as the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause.

“We’re really focusing on Nevada and California and [Oregon, Colorado and Georgia] to make sure that they are taking a stand by disqualifying Trump in those spaces, which is something that the secretary of state can do,” said Héctor Sánchez, executive director of Mi Familia Vota.

The groups are calling their campaign “Trump is Disqualified,” and are timing it to coincide with the 155th anniversary of the 14th Amendment.

The Hill has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.

Secretaries of state are charged with certifying eligibility of candidates and counting the votes in their state.

Though Trump has been indicted twice and is under investigation in other cases, the groups say those are not disqualifying facts under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

However, the groups believe Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — for which he is also under investigation — does fit the constitutional clause’s definitions.

That clause bars from a series of public offices people who “having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), it’s unclear whether the clause bans people from being president — an office not explicitly mentioned in Section 3 — and whether the events of Jan. 6 rise to the level of “insurrection or rebellion against” the United States.

But at least one official in New Mexico, Couy Griffin, was removed from his position as elected county commissioner for his role in the attack.

Griffin was convicted for his role before losing his job, but the CRS notes that the Constitution “does not expressly require a criminal conviction, and historically, one was not necessary.”

The groups leading the campaign believe they can convince at least some secretaries of state of their interpretation of the clause, disrupting Trump’s electoral chances.

“Trump is responsible for the January 6th insurrection, plain and simple,” said Alexandra Flores-Quilty, campaign director for Free Speech For People. 

“Failing to hold him responsible not only violates the Constitution, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for permitting violent attacks on our democracy. That’s not a risk we can afford to take.”

The targeted states are mostly under Democratic control, but one, Georgia, holds a special significance in the events leading up to Jan. 6.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) was in 2020 pressured by Trump to reverse his state’s presidential vote count, which favored President Biden.

Raffensperger was interviewed by federal investigators Wednesday as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigations into Trump.

A disqualification for Trump from any secretary of state would be unprecedented and likely challenged in court, but the civil rights groups say they have a shot.

“We had a number of meetings with secretaries of state and we have had this discussion. So it’s a real possibility,” said Sánchez.

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