The Illinois State Board of Elections dismissed an effort Tuesday to remove Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot, after a challenge contending that the former president should be removed over a violation of the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment. The decision is expected to be appealed.
The petition was brought by five voters who argued that Trump is ineligible to appear on the ballot. They cited a Civil War-era provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars insurrectionists from holding office, saying the former president engaged in insurrection to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
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After hearing arguments Tuesday from Trump’s legal team and the petitioners, the eight-member elections board, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, voted unanimously to dismiss the motion and keep the former president on the ballot, finding that the board did not have the jurisdiction to weigh in on the complex constitutional issue.
Matthew Piers, a lawyer for the voters challenging the former president’s ballot eligibility, asserted during Tuesday’s elections board meeting that the panel “not only has the authority to determine an objection, based on the U.S. Constitution, but indeed you have the clear, mandatory duty to do so.” He also said Trump “took a leading role in organizing, facilitating, supporting, directing and protecting a concerted, armed and violent invasion, seizure, and disruption of the United States Congress on January 6th, as the members of that body were gathering to fulfill their constitutional duty of certifying the electoral votes.”
Trump’s attorney Adam Merrill pushed back on Piers’s arguments and urged the board to allow Trump to appear on the primary ballot. He argued that there was “no precedent” to suggest the board could weigh in on the issue and also asserted that Trump did not engage in an insurrection or incite violence on Jan. 6, 2021.
One Republican elections board member, Catherine McCrory, said during the vote that she wanted to make it clear that she “believes that there was an insurrection on January 6th.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that [Trump] manipulated, instigated, aided, and abetted an insurrection on January 6th. However, having said that, it’s not my place to rule on that today. So I will say yes to the motion as far as not having jurisdiction to rule on that fact today,” she added.
Clark Erickson, a hearing officer for the elections board, had previously argued that the decision on Trump’s eligibility should be left to the courts rather than elections officials because of the complex constitutional issues at play. But Erickson, a retired judge and a Republican, also said he believed there was a “preponderance of the evidence” presented that Trump engaged in insurrection and should be barred from the ballot.
The legal team behind the petition is expected to immediately appeal the board’s decision.
“On appeal, we expect that the Illinois courts will uphold Judge Erickson’s thoughtful analysis of why Trump is disqualified from office, but — with the greatest respect — correct him and the Board on why Illinois law authorizes that ruling despite Trump’s subjective belief that the Constitution doesn’t apply to him,” Ron Fein, the legal director for Free Speech for People, said in a statement. The group serves as co-lead counsel, along with Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym and Illinois election lawyer Ed Mullen.
The Illinois decision comes days before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case over Colorado’s decision to bar Trump from its ballot. Colorado’s top court disqualified Trump, finding that he engaged in an insurrection before and during the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Similar arguments have been made to keep Trump off the ballot in other states.
The Illinois GOP primary is set to take place March 19.