Colorado, Trump, Eldridge Cleaver , ballots

Eldridge Cleaver Case Could Foreshadow Trump’s Removal From Colorado Ballot

Donald Trump's bid for another term as the president of the United States could potentially hit a snag as Colorado and several other states mull if a ban on insurrectionists taking office also applies to the presidency.

Donald Trump’s bid for another term as the president of the United States could potentially hit a snag as Colorado, and several other states question whether a ban on insurrectionists taking office also applies to the presidency.

As Newsweek reports, there is a comparison being drawn between the 1968 California case that resulted in the removal of Eldridge Cleaver, a former Black Panther Party leader who ran for president on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, primarily gaining support from Black voters, hippies, and student radicals, from the California ballot, and the ongoing legal debate in Colorado concerning Trump. In the case of Cleaver, his removal from the California ballot was based on his failure to meet the constitutionally mandated age requirement for the presidential office. Cleaver, who would have reached the age of 35 during his first term if elected, was disqualified as a candidate representing the Peace and Freedom Party.

Cleaver’s case is gaining renewed interest because Derek T. Mueller, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, attached an amicus brief to the Colorado Supreme Court wherein Mueller discusses several cases in which presidential candidates were removed from the ballot over constitutional infractions. Mueller writes in his brief, “Cleaver was the 33-year-old nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party. He challenged the exclusion in state court, which rejected his challenge. Cleaver petitioned for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. Without comment, the Court rejected the petition.”

An amicus brief allows an outside expert to submit a legal interpretation of legal events relating to a particular case, which Mueller maintains is impartial. Mueller also told Newsweek that Cleaver’s removal from the ballot is a negative legal precedent in the case of Trump, saying “[Trump] has argued that states have no power to judge the qualifications of candidates or that it is a political question. The historical record suggests that in at least some cases, states have excluded candidates.”

On Nov. 17, District Court Judge Sarah B. Wallace ruled that Trump could remain on the ballot for the 2024 election only because it had not been determined whether or not a constitutional amendment from the Civil War, which bars insurrectionists from taking public office, applies to the presidency. Wallace did declare that Trump had incited the riots that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6; however, both Trump and his opponents are appealing Wallace’s decision, which the Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear jointly. 

Mueller admitted to Newsweek that he is skeptical that the Colorado Supreme Court would actually remove Trump because the burden of proof is much lower for Trump than it is for his opponents, saying, “There are a number of things that the Colorado Supreme Court must find to exclude him from the ballot, but any one thing in Trump’s favor can keep him on.”

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