CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ election board on Tuesday was considering whether to keep Donald Trump on the state’s primary ballot after a recommendation that he be removed over the Constitution’s insurrection provision.
The meeting of the Illinois State Board of Elections, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, comes a little more than a week before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a similar case from Colorado. That state’s highest court found the 14th Amendment barred the Republican former president from the ballot over his role in the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, when he encouraged his backers to storm the building after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.
After brief arguments last week, a hearing officer for the Illinois board said it should be up to the courts, rather than election officials, to decide Trump’s eligibility because of the complicated constitutional issues involved. But the opinion from Clark Erickson, a retired judge and a Republican, concluded that a “preponderance of the evidence” presented proved that Trump engaged in insurrection and should be barred from the ballot.
The petition was filed by five voters who argued Trump is ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a Civil War−era provision that bars anyone who took an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.
The election board’s lawyer recommended dismissing the complaint under a legal technicality. During Tuesday’s hearing, an attorney for the voters who filed the challenge, Matthew Piers, argued the board should ignore that and decide whether the former president was eligible to appear on the March 19 primary ballot.
The attempt to keep Trump’s name off the Illinois’ ballot by raising federal constitutional questions is similar to efforts in several other states. The push has notched successes in Colorado and in Maine, where the Democratic secretary of state also recommended removing Trump from the ballot. That decision is on hold pending an eventual ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Free Speech for People, a national voting rights group that is helping lead the Illinois effort, praised the recommendation as “significant” and argued that Illinois law allows the board to make the ballot decision.
“We expect that the board and ultimately Illinois courts will uphold Judge Erickson’s thoughtful analysis of why Trump is disqualified from office, but — with the greatest respect — correct him on why Illinois law authorizes that ruling,” Ron Fein, legal director for the group, wrote in a Sunday statement.
Trump has argued that the cases seeking to remove him from the 2024 ballot are “election interference” and a plot by Democrats to stop voters from having a choice in November. His attorneys argue that the presidency isn’t covered by the 14th Amendment provision and that there is no clear legal standard to apply it. They have said Congress and not the courts should make the decision, that Jan. 6 was not legally an insurrection and that Trump wasn’t responsible for it anyway.
The eight−member Illinois election board is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. To side with the objectors and remove Trump’s name, a majority has to vote in favor. If the vote is tied 4−4, the effort fails and Trump’s name would remain on the ballot.
Riccardi reported from Denver.
Sophia Tareen And Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press