Michigan Supreme Court allows Trump to appear on 2024 primary ballot


Meanwhile,
similar challenges
have proceeded in dozens of other states. On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court essentially punted on the question in the critical swing state, saying in a terse order that it would not take up the issue of Trump’s eligibility now.

Earlier this month, a lower court ruled that Michigan’s secretary of state
does not have the authority
to remove Trump from the primary ballot. The voters challenging Trump’s eligibility — who were backed by the liberal advocacy group Free Speech for People, which has brought similar challenges across the country — tried to appeal that ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court. But the state Supreme Court, which consists of four Democrats and three Republicans, declined to hear the appeal, writing without elaboration that the court was “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

The Michigan Supreme Court’s order does not prevent the voters from contesting Trump’s eligibility to appear on the general election ballot if he wins the Republican nomination. By then, the U.S. Supreme Court may have definitively resolved the issue.

One member of the state supreme court dissented from the decision not to hear the appeal now. Justice Elizabeth Welch, a Democrat, said the court should have heard the appeal and formally affirmed the lower court’s conclusion that the Michigan secretary of state could not strip Trump from the primary ballot.

Trump celebrated the Michigan Supreme Court’s order on Wednesday. In a post on his social media site, Trump said the case was a “Desperate Democrat attempt to take the leading Candidate” off the ballot.

Michigan has an
unusual process to select candidates
for the presidential primary ballot. The secretary of state creates a list of candidates “generally advocated by the national news media to be potential presidential candidates.” Political parties may also submit additional candidates, and others can petition to get added.

That structure, the lower court ruled on Dec. 14, did not provide any room for the secretary of state to determine a candidate’s qualifications.

“The Secretary of State’s role in presidential primary elections is chiefly that of an administrator,” the Michigan Court of Appeals wrote. “In particular, when it comes to who is or is not placed on the primary ballot, the statutory scheme leaves nothing to the Secretary of State’s discretion.”

In a statement following Wednesday’s order from the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said she was “gratified” the state judiciary upheld her office’s approach of not striking Trump from the primary ballot. She has argued in the past that she lacked the authority to do so procedurally.

The challengers vowed to try to knock Trump off the general election ballot, should he ultimately receive the GOP nomination.

“The Court’s decision is disappointing but we will continue, at a later stage, to seek to uphold this critical constitutional provision designed to protect our republic,” said Mark Brewer, a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party who was one of the attorneys challenging Trump’s eligibility, in a statement.

Benson added that the U.S. Supreme Court still should weigh in more broadly on the challenge to Trump’s eligibility, as opposed to a procedural decision like the one in her state.

“The U.S. Supreme Court must provide the clarity and finality to this matter,” Benson said. “I continue to hope they do this sooner rather than later to ensure that we can move forward into 2024’s election season focused on ensuring all voters are fully informed and universally engaged in deciding the issues at stake.”

Michigan’s state-run primary is scheduled for Feb. 27, but the Republican Party also is planning a caucus in March.


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