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Michigan Supreme Court says Trump to remain on GOP primary ballot

Michigan Hall of Justice
Rick Pluta
Michigan Hall of Justice

Former President Donald Trump will remain on Michigan’s February presidential primary ballot after the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday refusing to review earlier lower court decisions. But the question of whether Trump is eligible to serve lingers.

The lower courts held that the question of Trump appearing on the February 27th primary ballot is not ripe for review unless and until Trump is chosen to be the Republican nominee. The Supreme Court’s decision to refuse the case appears to mean those decisions are the final word on Michigan’s presidential primary ballot.

The court’s unsigned order said “… we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

A group of voters argued Trump’s involvement in the events of January 6, 2021, makes him ineligible to be president under the insurrection clause of the U.S. Constitution. They said if Trump is not eligible to serve, he is not eligible to appear on the ballot.

Mark Brewer is an attorney for the plaintiffs. He said if Trump wins the nomination, his group will be back before the courts. But he told Michigan Public Radio the question should not have to wait until after the primary season.

“It’s unfortunate we have to wait that long,” he said. “If we’re able to knock him off the ballot at that point, it’s a very chaotic situation. The Republican Party would have to name a replacement for him, but that’s the position we now find ourselves in because the Michigan Supreme Court refused to address the issue now.”

Because the order was not signed, it is impossible to know exactly what the vote was on the seven-judge court. But there was at least one justice who wanted to hear the case.

Justice Elizabeth Welch said the court should have heard arguments on whether political parties that appear on the ballot have a constitutional responsibility.

“On the basis of these cases, appellants argue that the political parties are state actors for purposes of putting forward candidates for the presidential primary, and thus, the political parties are subject to the United States Constitution,” Welch wrote in a dissenting opinion. “If this premise is true, then political parties might have a constitutional obligation to ensure that proposed presidential primary candidates are constitutionally eligible to hold the office of President before submitting their names to the Secretary of State for inclusion on the primary ballot.”

Brewer said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually have to weigh in to settle a patchwork of state-level decisions. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last week that Trump is not eligible to appear on the statewide primary ballot.

“As we sit here today, Trump is off the ballot in Colorado and he may be off the ballot in many, many other states because there are lawsuits just like ours pending in these other states,” he said.

Trump posted a response on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

“The Michigan Supreme Court has strongly and rightfully denied the Desperate Democrat attempt to take the leading Candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election, me, off the ballot in the Great State of Michigan,” he wrote. “This pathetic gambit to rig the Election has failed all across the country, including the states that have historically leaned heavily toward the Democrats…”

The court decisions uphold a determination by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, that she had no legal authority to bar Trump from the primary ballot after his name was submitted by the Michigan Republican Party.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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