Trump Campaign

Colorado Supreme Court Boots Trump From Ballot. What Will It Mean for 2024?

The state’s high court said Trump is disqualified for participating in an insurrection. But with the case likely headed for the Supreme Court, the ultimate impact of the ruling remains to be seen. “We travel in uncharted territory,” the Colorado court acknowledged in its landmark 4-3 decision.
Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Waterloo Iowa on December 19.
Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Waterloo, Iowa on December 19.Scott Olson/Getty Images

The decision by the Colorado Supreme Court to disqualify Donald Trump from the ballot is unquestionably historic. But what will it actually mean for the 2024 election?

That much remains to be seen.

The state’s high court ruled Tuesday that Trump, the former president and current GOP frontrunner, must be barred from the state's Republican primary ballot under the 14th amendment because he took part in an insurrection on January 6, 2021, when he turned armed supporters on the Capitol as part of a broader effort to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden. In a 4-3 majority opinion, the justices noted that they were entering “uncharted territory” in disqualifying Trump. But they were also, they said, “mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

If it stands, the Colorado decision would have a limited impact on its own; it’s a blue state with only 10 electoral votes. But it could set a precedent that could shake up the election in other states. “The court’s decision is not only historic and justified but is necessary to protect the future of democracy in our country,” said Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the watchdog that brought the lawsuit in question. “Our Constitution clearly states that those who violate their oath by attacking our democracy are barred from serving in government.”

Of course, the Colorado Supreme Court surely won’t be the final word on the matter. The Trump campaign immediately vowed to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court, where three of the former president’s appointees fill out a conservative supermajority: “We have full confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will quickly rule in our favor and finally put an end to these un-American lawsuits,” campaign spokesman Stephen Cheung said in a statement.

How—and how quickly—the high court rules could dramatically impact both the GOP primary (where Trump is well ahead in the polls) and the 2024 general election, which is expected to be a close rematch between him and his successor.

In the primary, it could put an obstacle in what has, so far, seemed an open path to the nomination—or at least give his opponents a line of attack. But, as with his four indictments, the GOP challengers seemed to side with Trump: Ron DeSantis called on the Supreme Court to “reverse” the state court’s decision; Vivek Ramaswamy said he’d “withdraw” from the Colorado ballot unless Trump was allowed on; and Nikki Haley and Chris Christie said the public, not the courts, should have the final say on Trump. “I will beat him fair and square,” Haley said in Iowa Tuesday. “We don’t need to have judges making these decisions. We need voters to make these decisions.”

But Republican voters, to this point, have mostly signaled that they want Trump—regardless of his legal troubles or his qualifications—and he quickly moved to fold the Colorado ruling into the political persecution narrative he’s tried to wield against Biden. “A SAD DAY IN AMERICA!!!” he wrote Wednesday, describing the decision as “election interference.”

Will either of the appeals—the formal one to the high court and the political one to his base—work? Like so much about this landmark decision, it’s hard to say. “This isn’t such a clear-cut case, in that we don’t have a lot of case law,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told CNN on Tuesday. “It’s unprecedented by its nature in itself,” Griswold said. “We usually do not have presidents try to steal elections.”