Will votes for Trump count in Colorado’s upcoming presidential primary?

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Former President Donald Trump, waits for the continuation of his civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, POOL)

Editor's note: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 4 overturned the state supreme court’s ruling that Trump is ineligible to run for office in Colorado. With this ruling, all votes for Trump will count.

Fremont County Clerk Justin Grantham says he has been asked “every day” whether a vote for GOP candidate Donald Trump will be counted on Super Tuesday.

“We are in a limbo situation where we don’t know if the U.S. Supreme Court will decide,” said Grantham, who until recently was also president of the Colorado County Clerks Association. “The question before us right now is ‘Will they order us to suppress the vote for the outcome of President Trump, if he is not eligible to be an elected candidate?’”

Trump’s name does currently appear on Colorado’s primary ballot. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether or not the former President is ineligible to run for president again because he engaged in an insurrection to try and stay in power after losing the 2020 presidential election. The Colorado State Supreme Court ruled in December that Trump should be disqualified from appearing on the state’s primary ballot.

While the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court were skeptical of the Colorado judges’ arguments to disqualify Trump, an opinion has not yet been issued. And it’s left those in charge of administering next week’s primary election with a lot of questions.

Grantham said the plan is to “go ahead and count” the Trump votes. But he worries about what will happen if the Court then issues a decision saying Trump is ineligible. 

Grantham said if that happens, he plans to tell his county’s voters everywhere he can that he and his election judges have “taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, which includes decisions that come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“It would have been helpful for the United States Supreme Court to issue a decision before Coloradans received their mail ballots honestly,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, “and before the majority of voting starts happening, but we're past that point from the administrative point of view.”

Jena Griswold
David Zalubowski/AP
Colorado's Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks during a news conference in Denver on Oct. 15, 2020.

The guidance from the state is that Trump remains an eligible candidate. “Assuming the Supreme Court does not issue a decision [that disqualifies Trump] before Super Tuesday, the votes will be counted for Donald Trump,” Griswold said, adding her office hasn’t received many questions about this.

She points out that the Colorado State Supreme Court decision was put on hold while there is an appeal. “The clerks know where we're at in this litigation, (and) that they'll count the ballots unless something changes.”

Still, she would have liked the decision before ballots had gone out, to give Colorado voters certainty, as well as voters in other states. A state judge in Illinois disqualified Trump from the ballot recently, Griswold pointed out. Other states, like Maine and New York, have paused proceedings in cases in their states on this issue and are waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. 

But other Colorado leaders also understand why the court may be taking its time.

“I think this is a case that will be thought of for a century and I think they want to get it right and I think a rush to judgment in a case like this could set some really bad precedents,” said GOP Rep. Ken Buck, an attorney. “I don’t criticize them for just taking their time.”

He points out that people are “going to vote for who they want to vote for.”

Fremont County’s Grantham stressed the primary election is not to elect a president, but to award delegates to a candidate. “This is just a preference poll to tell the delegates from the state convention that go to the national convention of who to vote for.”

And Grantham has another message to primary voters: this is an unprecedented situation,  don’t take it out on poll workers or elections staff, who have experienced an uptick in threats since the 2020 elections.

“If people are angry with [the Court’s] decision, don't take it out on those that are volunteering to run the election — those staff and those election directors across the state — they're upholding their oaths to the constitution, following the law,” Grantham said.