As politicians, constitutional scholars and litigants throughout the country explore a potential legal strategy to disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot, Vermont’s top elections official is adopting a wait-and-see posture.
Though state leaders have determined that Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas doesn’t have the authority to bar the former president from the ballot, they’re bracing for the possibility that a lawsuit could put their conclusion to the test.
“I think it’s important for us to take a step back from the heat or intensity of everything surrounding the former president and just say: This country is founded on the rule of law, and we have processes in place that say, when there’s a question, that those questions go before the judiciary,” Copeland Hanzas, a Democrat, told VTDigger this week.
‘Donald Trump cannot be president’
Trump is the only former president to have been indicted on criminal charges after leaving office, and he has been four times over this year. Some legal scholars argue that two cases against him in particular — for his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol, and for alleged election meddling in Georgia — should constitutionally bar him from holding the office of president.
They point to the 14th Amendment, which was adopted in the wake of the Civil War. Section 3 of the amendment states that no one shall hold a civil or military office “who, having previously taken an oath… as an officer of the United States, 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 strategy has been building momentum since two professors, William Baude of the University of Chicago Law School and Michael Stokes Paulsen of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, laid out the theory in a widely covered article set to be published next year in The University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Both men are members of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society and consider themselves to be constitutional originalists.
Baude tightly summarized his and…