Former President Donald Trump participates in a signing ceremony for H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, with members of his administration and Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC on April 24th, 2020. | Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images)
Activist Robert Davis filed a lawsuit Friday afternoon to force Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot in Michigan on the grounds that the former president violated the U.S. Constitution by engaging in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
The lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims comes three days after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson declined Davis’s request to remove Trump from the primary election ballot, arguing she didn’t have the authority to do so.
In his lawsuit, first obtained by the Metro Times, Davis contends Benson is “constitutionally obligated to determine whether a presidential candidate is eligible” to run for office.
“I think this is an open-and-shut case,” Davis told the Metro Times. “What I’m asking is for the court to require her to do her job. She is trying to sidestep the issue because she’s afraid of Trump and his supporters. This will make her do her job and not throw it off to the judiciary. She wanted the job, and now she has to make the hard decision. If she is afraid to make a tough decision, then she needs to reign.”
Davis argues that Trump is ineligible to serve another term because Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prevents those who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding office.
He said Michigan election law clearly requires the secretary of state to determine a candidate’s eligibility.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in Florida, Colorado and Minnesota.
Without offering her opinion on Trump’s eligibility, Benson said in a letter to Davis Tuesday that she lacks the authority to remove the former president from the ballot.
“Under the Election Law, the Legislature did not expressly authorize the Secretary of State to make eligibility determinations as to whether a candidate for president is ‘disqualified under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,’” the letter states. “Accordingly, even assuming the request meets the requirements of Section 63, the Bureau declines to issue a declaratory ruling,” she added, referring to Michigan’s Administrative Procedures Act.
Benson’s office has declined to comment on her decision, but in a column for The Washington Post on Wednesday, she argued that too many legal questions remain unanswered, and therefore, the decision on Trump’s eligibility should be determined by the courts.
“The appropriate forum for deciding whether a candidate qualifies to serve in office under the Constitution is the courts — and, in a case with national implications such as this one, the Supreme Court,” Benson wrote. “Though it would be best for the country if that resolution came soon, it’s not a given that the court will pronounce on it before the 2024 primary season ends.”
Citing the findings of the House Jan. 6 select committee and the opinions of “well-esteemed, respected” legal scholars, Davis says it’s clear that Trump violated Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“The oath office in which Benson took requires her to uphold the United States Constitution,” Davis says. “She has a clear constitutional, legal duty to make a determination as to whether a presidential candidate has satisfied the eligibility requirements set forth in the United States Constitution.”
In his lawsuit, Davis also takes aim at Michigan’s new primary election date. On Feb. 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that moves the primary election from March 12, 2024, to Feb. 27, 2024.
But Public Act 2, which changed the date of the election, does not become effective until the 91st day after the adjournment of the 2023 legislative session, Davis says. Since the state Senate and House don’t plan to adjourn until mid- to late-December, 91 days won’t pass before the primary election date of Feb. 27. Therefore, Davis argues, Benson cannot hold the primary election in February.
Benson “does not have the constitutional nor statutory legal authority to enforce a law that has NOT become operational in accordance with the” Michigan Constitution, the lawsuit states.
Benson’s office declined to comment for this story because officials have not yet seen the lawsuit.
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