Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced Thursday he will introduce a measure to restrict federal funds to states that block candidates’ ballot access as soon as Congress returns to session early next year, after Maine’s secretary of state decided to block former President Donald Trump from the ballot.
The senator drafted the legislation, the Constitutional Election Integrity Act, in response to a similar decision that was made by the Colorado Supreme Court last week to bar the former president from appearing on the Colorado ballot.
“Maine’s Democrat Secretary of State just removed Trump from the ballot,” he wrote on X on Thursday, referring to the decision from Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. “This is an egregious abuse of power and why I will be introducing the Constitutional Election Integrity Act as soon as Congress returns to session to stop these partisan officials and ensure any constitutional challenge is only decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The measure would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to bar federal funds for election administration for states that use the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment for “political purposes” and for “other purposes,” according to text of the bill.
It would also clarify that only the U.S. Supreme Court possesses the “sole jurisdiction” to make decisions on 14th Amendment cases.
“Regardless of whether you support or oppose former President Donald Trump, it is outrageous to see left-wing activists make a mockery of our political system by scheming with partisan state officials and pressuring judges to remove him from the ballot,” Mr. Tillis said in a news release after the Colorado court’s ruling.
“American voters, not partisan activists, should decide who we elect as our President,“ Tillis continued. ”The Constitutional Election Integrity Act would put any constitutional challenges in the sole place they belong: the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The Colorado case appears likely to reach the Supreme Court, after Republicans filed an appeal with the high court against the Colorado judges’ decision. But similar cases have already made their way through multiple courts in several other states, challenging President Trump’s right to run for office under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Section 3.
The challenges are being filed under a provision in the U.S. Constitution banning officials who have engaged in “insurrection” from holding public office. However, the former president has not been charged with or convicted of insurrection.
Passed after the U.S. Civil War, Section 3 bars anyone from holding public office if they engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” after previously swearing an oath in support of the United States. The provision was enacted in 1868 to prevent former members of the Confederacy from serving in the U.S government.
Left-wing groups and some anti-Trump voters have brought legal challenges to President Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign in several states based on this section, arguing that Capitol breach during the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally constituted an insurrection and that President Trump was involved.
Maine’s top election official, Democrat Shenna Bellows, granted a challenge from a group of former state lawmakers who argued that President Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, was not qualified to serve as president again under Section 3. She ordered President Trump to be kept off the ballot for the March 5 Republican primary but put her ruling on hold to allow him to appeal to a state court.
Colorado is viewed as a safely Democratic state in the November 2024 general election, meaning President Joe Biden would be expected to carry the state regardless of whether President Trump is on the ballot. However, President Trump won one of Maine’s electors during the 2020 election, meaning Ms. Bellows’ actions could be more consequential.
The court paused its ruling to allow President Trump to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which the former president indicated he would do. The Colorado Republican Party filed its own appeal to the Supreme Court on Dec. 27, clearing a path for President Trump to remain on the primary ballot despite the state court ruling.
President Trump and his allies have criticized disqualification cases as undemocratic and part of a conspiracy by his political rivals to keep him out of office. His lawyers have argued that only Congress can enforce Section 3 and that presidents are not subject to disqualification. A lower court judge in Colorado agreed that Section 3 does not apply to presidents before that ruling was overturned by the state’s top court.
Meanwhile, his attorneys have said that he didn’t engage in insurrection, saying he was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech on the day of the Jan. 6 protest. The former president has often noted that he told protesters that day to “peacefully and patriotically” demonstrate, while the insurrection claims have been mainly foisted by Democratic lawmakers and corporate news pundits.