Former President Donald J. Trump sued Michigan’s top elections official, seeking to ensure he would be on the ballot for the 2024 presidential election.
In a 64-page filing on Monday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said that Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, had created “uncertainty” by failing to respond to communications from the Trump campaign about his ballot eligibility. Mr. Trump is the dominant front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
His lawyers added that other parties had sued Ms. Benson to keep Mr. Trump off the ballot in 2024, arguing that he was ineligible to hold office again under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — a section that disqualifies anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after having taken an oath to support it.
Ms. Benson previously declined to disqualify Mr. Trump over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, saying she did not have the authority to determine who was or was not eligible to run under the 14th Amendment. Plaintiffs in that case then sued in Michigan state court to have the court order Ms. Benson to disqualify Mr. Trump. Ms. Benson has noted that she is watching for the results of that case.
Cheri Hardmon, a spokeswoman for Ms. Benson, said on Tuesday that the Michigan Department of State could not comment on pending litigation.
The Michigan lawsuit was the latest turn in a nationwide battle over Mr. Trump’s eligibility to run for president. The suit was filed Monday afternoon in Michigan state court as a trial played out in Colorado to determine whether Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election met the disqualification criteria in the 14th Amendment.
That trial continued on Tuesday with testimony related to Mr. Trump and far-right extremists and their actions on Jan. 6, 2021.
Peter Simi, an expert witness on political extremism and violence called by the plaintiffs, said during questioning that far-right extremists often communicate in ambiguous language, and that many of Mr. Trump’s comments before and on Jan. 6 were a key influence on extremists who rioted at the Capitol.
Mr. Simi focused on Mr. Trump’s speech at the Ellipse that day, where he repeatedly called on his supporters to “fight” to prevent the election from being stolen.
“A call to fight for far-right extremists — especially within the context as it’s laid out, that these threats are imminent, that you’re going to lose your country — then fighting would be understood as requiring violent action,” Mr. Simi testified.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump argued during cross-examination that Mr. Simi had selectively chosen particular moments that made Mr. Trump look bad, and sought to cast doubt on whether the president had intended for the far right to interpret his remarks the way they did.
Other cases on Mr. Trump’s eligibility are soon to follow: A similar lawsuit has been filed in New Hampshire. Oral arguments in a case in Minnesota are scheduled to begin Thursday. Separately, Democratic legislators in California asked their state’s attorney general last month to seek a court opinion on Mr. Trump’s eligibility.
Whatever rulings come in these cases will not be final. They will almost certainly be appealed by the losing side, and the Supreme Court — which has a 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices appointed by Mr. Trump — is likely to have the final say.