The 2024 election won’t be decided by prosecutors

Guest column - Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State

Some legal scholars are arguing that secretaries of state should remove Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that a public official is ineligible for public office if he has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” America.

But Georgia law contemplates a legal process that must take place before anyone is removed from the ballot. Anyone who believes in democracy must let the voters decide.

The 14th Amendment was a product of the Reconstruction era, immediately following the Civil War. It was written to keep former Confederate officials and leaders from regaining power by holding public office, and historians have questioned whether it was meant as a permanent standard. It went nearly unused after the 1870s until September 2022, when a state judge in New Mexico removed a county commissioner who participated in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021.

Attempts to invoke Section 3 against the candidacies of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn failed.

Each of the cases required a decision in the courts. But activists are urging secretaries of state like me to bar Mr. Trump from the ballot unilaterally.

Invoking the 14th Amendment is merely the newest way of attempting to short-circuit the ballot box. Since 2018, Georgia has seen losing candidates and their lawyers try to sue their way to victory. It doesn’t work. Stacey Abrams’s claims of election mismanagement following the 2018 election were rejected in court, as were Mr. Trump’s after the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump might win the nomination and general election. Or he could lose. The outcomes should be determined by the people who show up to make their preference known in primaries (including Georgia’s on March 12) and the general election on Nov. 7. A process that denies voters their chance to be the deciding factor in the nomination and election process would erode the belief in our uniquely American representative democracy.

For a secretary of state to remove a candidate would only reinforce the grievances of those who see the system as rigged and corrupt. Denying voters the opportunity to choose is fundamentally un-American.

Since our founding, Americans have believed that a government is just when it has earned the consent of the governed. Taking away the ability to choose—or object to—the eligibility of candidates eliminates that consent for slightly less than half of the country.

Georgia has faced the cottage industry of election denialism and shut it down. The right side won in 2022. Rather than hiding behind lawyers and bureaucratic hurdles, Gov. Brian Kemp and I traveled the state. I told the story of 2018 and 2020 so voters could choose their candidate with confidence.

The 2024 election won’t be decided by prosecutors. It won’t be decided by John Eastman. And it won’t be decided by the vice president, whose role is simply to oversee a joint session of Congress in which each state’s electors are counted. The American people will make their own decisions.

Country music singer Luke Bryan, a fellow Georgian, said it best: “Most people are good.” Most of the time they will get it right. Trust the voters.

Brad Raffensperger is the Republican Secretary of State for Georgia. He won re-election in 2022.

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