Justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court expressed some skepticism during a hearing on Thursday about whether states would have the authority to ban former President Donald Trump from appearing on their ballot.
Some of the justices on the state’s high court even suggested that Congress would best be positioned to rule whether Trump could be barred from ballots due to his role in the Capitol riot that took place in January 2021.
During the hearing, the justices seriously questioned one of the attorneys who is representing voters in America who have sued to prevent Trump from appearing on the ballot in their state. They are citing the U.S. Constitution’s “insurrection” clause, which states that people who participate in an insurrection could be barred from holding some federal offices.
The justices continually cited the role that Congress plays in certifying the presidential electors as well as its ability to impeach a president in firing back against the plaintiffs in the case. Some even questioned whether the eligibility should be settled by Congress.
For instance, Natalie E. Hudson, who serves as the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, said:
“Those all seem to suggest there is a fundamental role for Congress to play and not the states because of that. It’s that interrelation that I think is troubling, that suggests that this is a national matter for Congress to decide.”
Minnesota wasn’t the only state that is facing a case like this, as a similar lawsuit was filed in Colorado to ban Trump from the ballot there. Both of those states’ highest courts are attempting to rule on something that not even the nation’s highest court has ever weighed in on.
There have been several other lawsuits like these two filed in other states to date, though none have yet progressed as far as the ones in Minnesota and Colorado have.
What all the plaintiffs have been arguing is that the 14th Amendment, which was passed during the Civil War-era, contains an insurrection clause that should ban Trump from holding office again. As such, he shouldn’t be allowed to appear on the ballots, even though he’s the huge frontrunner among GOP candidates.
Regardless of how the state Supreme Courts in Minnesota and Colorado rule, it’s expected that the decisions will ultimately end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the oral arguments, Nicholas Nelson, a lawyer who is representing Trump in the case, said that the roles that states have in determining the eligibility of candidates for president was limited to what he termed “basic processing requirements.” That includes things such as making sure a candidate meets the minimum age requirement, for instance.
He even directly addressed a concern the chief justice expressed, that there could be chaos if different states rule in different ways on the matter. As he said:
“Petitioners would like this to be a one-off case, but we are a 50-state democracy.”