Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan Secretary of State raises questions about Trump being barred from the 2024 ballot

By: - September 6, 2023 10:53 am

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks during the Michigan Inauguration on Jan. 1, 2023. | Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance

“What is a rebellion?” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked in an interview on CNN this week when asked her thoughts on the possibility of former President Donald Trump being kept off the presidential ballot in 2024.

Election officials and courts across the country will have to ask themselves over the next several months questions that have never really been answered, Benson said.

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

The question is: Do Trump’s actions to usurp the 2020 election, which led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, constitute a rebellion, making him ineligible to run for president under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment?

A person who has previously taken an oath of office, such as Trump, is ineligible for any office in the United States under the 14th Amendment if they, “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Benson told CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Sunday that “the arguments for disqualification are quite strong,” but officials are situated in unprecedented territory, especially with the next presidential election so close. 

Benson said she’s in communication with her colleagues in other states, including Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Those states are listed in the federal indictment released in August where Trump and his allies are accused of threatening and lying to officials in order to implement false electors to fraudulently assert Trump as the winner of the 2020 election.

It’s likely Benson, a Democrat, will ask Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, another Democrat, to weigh in on whether Trump’s known actions constitute insurrection. As court cases against Trump and his allies play out, there could still be decisions from election officials that keep Trump off the ballot, Benson said, but ultimately a decision will have to come from the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s important that every Michigan voter has the right to cast their vote for who they want, Benson said, so it’s important, “to get this right,” but Benson also has a duty to ensure a fair and just election constituting qualified candidates.

Last week, a legal challenge in Michigan reiterated that sentiment. The filer, Robert Davis, argues that Trump knowingly incited a rebellion and continues to stoke the flames with his continued support of 2020 election insurrectionists. Davis added the issue of eligibility needs to be resolved immediately, or Michigan could have a “dark cloud” hanging over future elections.


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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.