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State appeals court: Trump stays on primary ballot

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Gage Skidmore
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled former President Donald Trump can stay on the state’s presidential primary ballot.

Trump had been at the center of a lawsuit against the Michigan Secretary of State to remove the former president’s name from the ballot.

The complaint argued that Trump had incited the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol -- and that by doing so, Trump was disqualified from becoming president under the “insurrection clause” in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

That clause reads: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

The lawsuits are part of a strategy the legal advocacy group Free Speech for People has been employing in ballot-access lawsuits across the country.

In September, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she wouldn’t take Trump’s name off the primary ballot. She argued she didn’t have the authority.

Benson ultimately prevailed in a November 14 decision from Court of Claims Judge Robert Redford that agreed with her.

Redford ruled a primary election was too early to start worrying about Trump’s place on the general election ticket. Moreover, the question over his eligibility was a “political question,” according to Redford.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Redford’s decision. It reasoned political parties ultimately determine who appears on their presidential primary ballots. Candidates can get their names removed if they so choose.

“Michigan’s statutory scheme makes clear that the Secretary of State’s role in the context of presidential primary elections is limited,” Judge Anica Letica wrote for a three-judge appellate panel.

The appellate court similarly punted on the issue of Trump’s ballot eligibility.

“[I]t is unnecessary to make any determinations regarding whether Trump engaged in insurrection or is actually disqualified from holding the office of President of the United States by the Fourteenth Amendment, at least at this time,” the opinion read.

The Trump campaign praised the ruling, calling the plaintiff's case a "bad-faith interpretation of the 14th Amendment."

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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