Nebraska secretary of state says rationale in Colorado to keep Trump off ballot ‘not persuasive’

Bob Evnen expresses hope that U.S. Supreme Court will rule and clarify the issue

By: - December 20, 2023 6:36 pm

Crowd inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen said Wednesday that the decision in Colorado to deny former President Donald Trump a place on the 2024 primary ballot was “not persuasive.”

Evnen emphasized that Tuesday’s ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court has no legal bearing on what will happen in Nebraska and that he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court takes up and clarifies the issue soon.

“In accordance with the usual practice of this office, the decision of whose names will appear on the Nebraska presidential primary election ballot will be made and announced in the latter half of February 2024,” Evnen, an attorney, said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

Secretary of State Robert Evnen
Secretary of State Robert Evnen (Courtesy of Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office)

He added that the majority opinion by the Colorado Supreme Court to keep Trump’s name off the Republican presidential primary ballot “is not persuasive in my view.”

Six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters had challenged Trump;s placement on the Colorado primary ballot. They cited Trump’s role in inciting the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the affirmation of the 2022 election of Joe Biden as president.

‘Engaged in insurrection’

The voters pointed to a Civil War-era clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which disqualifies those who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the country from holding public office.

On Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, ordered  Trump’s name off the primary ballot in that state, overruling a lower court’s decision.

The ruling prompted an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision was hailed by Democrats and condemned by Republicans.

‘Deeply un-American’

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., called the ruling “deeply un-American” in a press release Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., speaks on the potential future of the federal farm bill in June. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

“It’s the right of American voters to support who they wish, but this ruling takes away that right,” Fischer said, calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule quickly.

Eric Underwood, the state GOP chair, said Wednesday he is prepared to present options to make sure Republicans get to choose among all the presidential candidates, if needed.

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said there was “no doubt” that Trump incited the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Kleeb said Democrats will leave it up to the Supreme Court to decide Trump’s fate.

Jane Kleeb
Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party (Courtesy of Nebraska Democratic Party)

Meanwhile, she said that her party’s strategy “remains laser-focused on registering more voters” and securing an electoral vote for President Joe Biden in the Omaha area’s 2nd Congressional District.

It marked the first time that the 14th Amendment clause had served to bar a candidate from the ballot.

The ruling in Colorado came after some states had rejected efforts to toss Trump off the ballot.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court took oral arguments on the issue after a district judge ruled that the 14th Amendment clause does not apply to the presidency.

Ruling not made ‘lightly’

“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” Colorado justices in the majority wrote on Tuesday.

“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us,” the majority added. “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

The ruling, however, was stayed until Jan. 4 — Colorado officials say their primary ballot must be finalized by Jan. 5 —  or until the outcome of a widely anticipated appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is decided.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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