Can the 14th Amendment Keep People Off the Ballot?

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) was subject to intense scrutiny during the week preceding the Jan. 6, 2021 protests in the U.S. Capitol, under an unconstitutional petition seeking to have Greene disqualified from running to run for the next election.

Greene’s critics draw attention at Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which is called the disqualification clause in which senators or representatives in Congress is not able to hold office in the event that they “have been involved in an insurrection or revolt” with government officials of the United States government.

The clause that prohibits people from voting hasn’t received enough attention like other provisions from the 14th Amendment — but could it be used to block anyone from voting?

14th Amendment Refresh

The 14th Amendment covers a vast arrayof issues in only 400 words. It was most important to ensure that every person born in the U.S., including people who were previously slaves, would have the legal right to be treated as a citizen.

The amendment was ratified in 1866 during the time following the Civil War known as the “Reconstruction,” the 14th Amendment is most famous to protect against discrimination from the federal government. The emphasis was on segregation of races. Today, activists use 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause to revoke laws that discriminate on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, financial income, national origin and other.

The 14th Amendment also prohibits states from denying “any one of their lives freedom, liberty or property without proper legal process.”

Congress introduced the disqualification clause inside the 14th Amendment to bar Confederate officials from returning to their positions of power following their participation in the Civil War. According to the official view of Congress that these individuals violated their vow to support the Constitution in joining the Confederacy. But, in 1871, Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant were under the pressure of political leaders to reconcile with the former Confederates. In 1872, Congress approved an act known as the Amnesty Act, which made many of them eligible once more.

Equal protection clause and due process clauses were the foundation of a number of landmark Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and Obergefell v. Hodges. Disqualification clauses is, however was largely unnoticed for over 150 years, up to on January 6 in 2021.

Did Greene’s Acts constitute “Insurrection” or “Rebellion”?

A number comprised of Georgia citizens as well as constitutional scholars and liberal activists brought a legal challenge to Greene’s reelection bid in the month of March 2022. The challengers cited the clause that bars her from running. A court of administrative law let her stay on the election ballot however, the plaintiffs appealed to the Georgia judge.

A similar group tried to prevent Rep. Madison Cawthorn from the GOP primary in North Carolina using the same arguments, but the U.S. District Court judge appointed to the case decided that Amnesty Act essentially repealed the exclusion clause in the aftermath of the Civil War. A case of appeal continues, though it’s probably a pointless issue as Cawthorn did not win his primary contest.

The same group is contesting the legitimacy of two Republican Representatives. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar from Arizona. They are appealing to the Arizona Supreme Court ruled earlier this month, allowing them to continue to be in the race for.

There’s very little precedents for Greene’s opponents to use to hang their hats on. Disqualification clauses were last employed in 1919 against the Wisconsin Congressman who was named Victor Berger. Berger was accused of spying on the enemies in World War I, and his adversaries employed the clause of disqualification to ban Berger from Congress following the end of war. However, his supporters in Milwaukee continued to vote for him and Congress finally allowed him to return.

As of now, Georgia is the only state where a judge has permitted a legal challenge of this kind to be heard. The challengers to Greene’s nomination are facing a difficult task. If they are able to prove that they can prove that the Amnesty Act does not apply to members currently in Congress However, they’ll need be able to show Greene’s actions spurred an uprising.

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