Illinois election board to rule on challenge to Trump candidacy; hearing officer recommends dismissal

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State of Illinois Board of Elections, Springfield. | Capitol News Illinois file photo

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Elections will be asked to decide Tuesday whether former President Donald Trump is barred under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from having his name appear on Illinois’ March 19 Republican primary ballot.

It’s a question being asked in several states preparing to hold primary elections in the coming months and one that many believe must ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Feb. 8 in a similar challenge to Trump’s candidacy in Colorado.

“We have so many different states taking their own interpretations. Colorado has said he can’t be on the ballot, for example,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, said Monday at an unrelated news conference in Springfield. “I think this has to be decided by the Supreme Court.” 

The challenge to Trump is based on the so-called “insurrectionist ban” contained in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War, it says that public officials who swear an oath to protect the Constitution and then take part in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States are disqualified from holding public office again.

The challenges allege that Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol – when thousands of protesters stormed the building in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden – amounted to an “insurrection” within the meaning of the 14th amendment.

After a lengthy hearing in Chicago on Friday, retired Republican state Judge Clark Erickson, serving as a hearing officer for the Board of Elections, issued a report over the weekend advising the Board of Elections to dismiss the challenge on the grounds that the board only has authority to decide cases based on the Illinois Election Code, not the U.S. Constitution.

But if the board chooses not to dismiss the challenge, Erickson recommended that Trump be disqualified, saying the “preponderance of evidence” proves that “President Trump engaged in insurrection, within the meaning of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and should have his name removed from the March, 2024 primary ballot in Illinois.”

Caryn Lederer, an attorney for the group challenging Trump, said in an interview Monday that the Board of Elections does not have the option of sidestepping the controversy while waiting for the Supreme Court to rule because state law requires the board to resolve election objections “expeditiously.”

“But my prediction is that their decision will be appealed, either by the objectors or by candidate Trump,” she said.

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