Benson declines to remove Trump from Michigan presidential ballot, but the case isn’t over

By: - September 13, 2023 2:36 pm

Former President Donald Trump dances after speaking at a fundraiser for the Alabama republican party Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 in Montgomery, Ala. (Alabama Reflector Photo by Stew Milne)

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has declined to kick Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot in Michigan, saying she doesn’t have the authority to do so, even if the former president violated the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Benson’s decision was in response to a legal challenge last month by activist Robert Davis, who argued that Trump is ineligible to serve another term because the constitution bars insurrectionists from office.

The Civil War-era Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prevents those who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding office.

In a letter to Davis late Tuesday, Benson, a Democrat, says she does not have the authority to remove Trump from the ballot, even if he violated the 14th Amendment.

Activist files legal challenge to disqualify Trump from 2024 presidential race in Michigan

“Under the Election Law, the Legislature did not expressly authorize the Secretary of State to make eligibility determinations as to whether a candidate for president is ‘disqualified under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,’” the letter states. “Accordingly, even assuming the request meets the requirements of Section 63, the Bureau declines to issue a declaratory ruling,” she added, referring to Michigan’s Administrative Procedures Act.

Davis is not giving up and says he plans to soon file a lawsuit requesting a court “to declare that the Secretary of State has a clear legal duty to determine the qualifications of a presidential candidate and whether such presidential candidates qualify under the provision under the U.S. Constitution.”

“Certainly legal action is necessary since the Secretary of State is refusing to uphold her oath of office,” Davis told the Metro Times. “The Michigan Constitution requires her to support the constitution of both Michigan and the United States, and her refusal to comply with her oath of office clearly reflects the fact that she is scared of the former president and his supporters. She wants the judiciary to do her work for her.”

Activists have made similar attempts in other states. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit that tried to remove Trump from the presidential ballot under the 14th Amendment. The judge ruled that “an individual citizen does not have standing to challenge whether another individual is qualified to hold public office.”

But that doesn’t mean attempts to remove Trump from the ballot are doomed. In the Florida case, the judge did not rule on the merits of Trump’s eligibility. The ruling was merely based on legal standing. Other lawsuits have also been filed in Colorado and Minnesota.

Before Davis filed the legal challenge, Benson spoke at length about attempts to remove Trump from the ballot in an interview on MSNBC, saying secretary of states “may be the first to act on these issues but we won’t be the last word.”

“It will be up to the courts to decide, likely the Supreme Court,” Benson said, adding, “We know the impact that this decision can have not just among our voters but in the nation. And so we’re taking this seriously. We’re looking at it carefully. And we’re weighing all of the thorny issues at play.”

Benson also said the decision won’t be an easy one and must be done without political influence. She pointed out that Trump has not been convicted of committing an insurrection.

“If we’re not going to predicate this on a conviction under the law, then how do we ensure due process?” she asked. “How do we define ‘insurrection’ or ‘rebellion?’ Who makes that determination?”

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Follow them: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook Twitter

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Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist with the Detroit Metro Times. He operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker, Neavling was a five-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, covering Detroit’s city hall.