Colorado court’s ballot ruling on Trump hurts all of us

Sparta /
| 28 Dec 2023 | 04:37

    On Dec. 19, the Colorado Supreme Court acted as judge, jury and executioner.

    The court moved to disenfranchise well over a million voters by disqualifying Donald Trump from appearing on the ballot, holding that he had committed a federal crime even though he was never charged nor convicted of that crime.

    The court contended that Trump’s words and actions on and around the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack violate Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bars from office anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.

    Section 3 reads, in part:

    “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, 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, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

    About eight public officials have been formally adjudicated to be disqualified and barred from public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment since its ratification in 1868.

    This section was created to deal with Confederate soldiers and sympathizers who actively engaged in anti-Union activities during the Civil War. Most, if not all, of these cases followed some form of court proceedings.

    The right to vote is a fundamental right in a democratic society - or at least it used to be.

    In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court noted in the case of Reynolds vs. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555 (1967) that “(t)he right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.”

    For the “right to vote” to have any meaning, it requires that candidates are allowed to be placed on the ballot, and the U.S. Supreme Court held that the strict scrutiny standard of review is to be employed when deciding such cases.

    The court wrote that “restrictions on access to ballots burdens ... two different, although overlapping, kinds of rights - the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs and the right of qualified voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast their votes effectively. Both of these rights, of course, rank among our most precious freedoms.” Williams vs. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 30 (1968).

    Apparently, in today’s America, our political parties and elected officials, including many Republicans especially in New Jersey, are not that concerned with attacks on our constitutional rights and freedoms.

    Instead of acting as a principled opposition party, many New Jersey Republicans are petrified at the thought of challenging the actions of Democrats other than with some lukewarm objections on social media that nobody reads or cares about.

    Many of the state’s Republican “leaders” seem to fear that if they step out of line, they will lose the few crumbs they receive from the Democrats’ table. They have been “institutionally conditioned” to stay quiet and not rock the boat. The end result being these so-called “leaders” keep their jobs while we the people have to either “like it or lump it.”

    The Colorado court’s actions should shock everyone all throughout the United States. A court that has rendered a guilty verdict along with punishment without benefit of any constitutional rights or standard legal processes. Formal charges and indictments; confrontation of accusers and witnesses; exchange and review of evidence; cross-examination, all these annoying formalities have been done away with by the court to expedite a political decision.

    This is not a loss for Donald Trump. It is a loss for democracy. For our republic - and its people. It is our loss.

    Rob Kovic is a lawyer from Sparta. He serves as executive director of the Sussex County Republican Committee.