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Oregon voters suing to block Trump from ballot say they don’t need to prove harm

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Attorneys representing the Oregon voters who are suing to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot insisted in court documents filed this week that they don’t need to prove they’d be harmed by Trump running for election.

Ballots like this one shown in this 2022 file photo may not have former President Donald Trump on them for the May primary. The Oregon Supreme Court is expected to soon rule on the matter. Critics argue Trump should not be allowed to run for president because of his involvement in spurring the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in the nation's capital.

Ballots like this one shown in this 2022 file photo may not have former President Donald Trump on them for the May primary. The Oregon Supreme Court is expected to soon rule on the matter. Critics argue Trump should not be allowed to run for president because of his involvement in spurring the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in the nation’s capital.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The Oregon Supreme Court last week asked the voters, who are represented by two Portland attorneys and the national advocacy group Free Speech for People, to file an additional brief explaining whether they had a right to sue in the case and whether Oregon law allows Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade to determine whether a presidential candidate is qualified to serve. With final documents filed late Tuesday, the court can issue its decision on the case at any time.

Oregon is one front in a multistate effort to remove Trump from the ballot. Critics charge that his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and support for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol constituted an insurrection and made him ineligible under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment  bars candidates who previously took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.

The Democratic secretary of state in Maine and the Colorado Supreme Court agreed, ruling that Trump should be removed from ballots in those states. The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering the Colorado ruling.

Griffin-Valade and the Oregon Department of Justice have taken the stance that she lacks the authority to judge whether presidential candidates are qualified because voters don’t actually pick a nominee during the primary – they direct delegates to a national convention how to vote. The Oregon Republican Party requires all delegates to support the winner of the state’s primary.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek appointed LaVonne Griffin-Valade, above, as the new secretary of state, replacing Shemia Fagan. Griffin-Valade and the Oregon Department of Justice have taken the stance that she lacks the authority to judge whether presidential candidates are qualified.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek appointed LaVonne Griffin-Valade, above, as the new secretary of state, replacing Shemia Fagan. Griffin-Valade and the Oregon Department of Justice have taken the stance that she lacks the authority to judge whether presidential candidates are qualified.

Courtesy of Governor’s Office

Trump intervened in the Oregon case with a 162-page brief in December, arguing that neither Griffin-Valade nor state courts can decide who is qualified to be president and objecting to claims that he engaged in insurrection. Further, Trump argued, the Oregon voters lacked standing, or a right to sue, because none of them is a Republican presidential candidate or voter who would be prevented from voting for a preferred candidate because of Trump’s presence on the ballot.

“They assert no interest in this case other than the generalized interest in elections shared by all Oregon citizens,” Trump’s attorneys wrote. “That is not sufficient to invoke this court’s mandamus jurisdiction. Across the nation and across several presidential elections, many challenges to candidates’ eligibility have failed for lack of standing. This one does too.”

In response, attorneys representing the Oregon voters wrote in a brief filed Tuesday that the Oregon Supreme Court has broad power in matters of extreme public importance and urgency. The court filing noted that Trump’s primary opponents oppose efforts to remove him from the ballot, speculating that they don’t want to alienate his supporters.

“That absence of plaintiffs or relators with special motivation (and financial resources) to seek enforcement of the 14th Amendment, Section 3, against a particular state or federal candidate means that only ordinary voters can protect democracy by seeking such enforcement when officials do not act,” the filing said. “Requiring those ordinary voters to have heightened beneficial interest in democracy would establish an unbalanced system, where the most profound and universal fundamental rights cannot be enforced through mandamus to any court, because the benefits will flow widely and not narrowly to the relators.”

This story was originally published by the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

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