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New Jersey man sues to keep Trump off 2024 ballot

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(The Center Square) — A New Jersey man has filed a lawsuit to keep Republican President Donald Trump off the state’s ballot in next year’s presidential election.

In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court, John Bellocchio alleges that a rarely used clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the former president from being elected to a second term over his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. He asks the court to bar Trump from the primary and general election ballots.

“He is disqualified from holding the presidency or any other office under the United States unless and until Congress provides him relief,” the 105-page complaint reads.

Bellocchio, a former history teacher and unaffiliated voter, told local media outlets that the lawsuit is “not about Donald Trump” but adhering to the tenets of the U.S. Constitution.

“This is to protect government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It’s about stopping a movement,” Bellocchio told The New Jersey Monitor. “It’s about forcing New Jersey to finally put principle over politics.”

The 14th Amendment, approved by Congress in 1866 to help ensure civil rights for freed slaves, also bars from office anyone who once took an oath to uphold the Constitution but then “engaged” in “insurrection or rebellion” against it. It was intended to keep former Confederates from serving in the states or federal government following the Civil War.

In the lawsuit, Bellocchio said the public record shows the Jan. 6 insurrectionists “defeated the forces of civilian law enforcement,” forced the Congress to go into recess, “stopped the essential constitutional process of certifying electoral votes” … and occupied the United States Capitol — “a feat never achieved by the Confederate rebellion.”

The New Jersey lawsuit is the latest in a series of 14th amendment ballot challenges targeting Trump, the front-runner in a crowded field of GOP candidates, facing four criminal trials, including one over his alleged role in the Capitol attack.

Individuals and groups have filed similar lawsuits in more than 14 states, with legal experts predicting that the issue will ultimately land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Liberal groups have been pushing for more than a year for state secretaries to commit to honoring the clause by keeping Trump off the ballot. So far, none have done so, though election officials in some blue states like Maine and Connecticut have been conducting reviews to determine if the 14th Amendment’s provisions apply to Trump.

Legal scholars say the 14th Amendment has seldom been used in such legal challenges, and they differ on whether it would bar Trump from next year’s ballot.

To be sure, Trump has denied wrongdoing in the Jan. 6 riots and pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

His campaign has blasted the 14th Amendment challenges as “election interference” and pledged to fight them in court.

Other Republicans have also pushed back hard against the lawsuits, arguing that it should ultimately be the voters who decide who appears on the presidential ballot next year.

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