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The Illinois elections board rules Trump will remain on the March 19 ballot

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Las Vegas. The Illinois State Board of Elections voted unanimously to allow Trump to be listed on the ballot for the March 19 Illinois primary.
John Locher
/
Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Las Vegas. The Illinois State Board of Elections voted unanimously to allow Trump to be listed on the ballot for the March 19 Illinois primary.

The bipartisan board said they couldn’t take up the question of whether Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 barred him from running.

The State Board of Elections unanimously voted Tuesday to reject a bid to block former Republican President Donald Trump from Illinois’ March 19 primary ballot, setting into motion a battle in state court over his eligibility.

A group of voters and a national voting-rights group objected to Trump’s nominating petitions in Illinois and asked the state election board to block his candidacy. They alleged Trump is constitutionally barred from running for office because of his conduct during the fatal Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

The 14th Amendment prohibits insurrectionists from seeking public office.

But the eight-member state election board, which is split equally between Republicans and Democrats, rejected that argument on grounds that the panel lacked statutory authority to determine whether Trump, in fact, violated that provision of the U.S. Constitution.

Related: Trump's candidacy on the Illinois ballot should be decided by the courts, an elections board hearing officer says

That’s even though at least some of the board’s members believed Trump fueled the insurrection, which has been linked to seven deaths and resulted in criminal charges against more than 1,200 people.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he manipulated, instigated, aided and abetted an insurrection on January 6th,” said board member Catherine S. McCrory, an appointee of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker. “However, having said that, it’s not my place to rule on that today.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, a hearing officer for the state election board – retired Republican Kankakee County Judge Clark Erickson – held that Trump, in fact, engaged in insurrection but recommended the state panel allow the courts to wade into the murky legal waters surrounding how to interpret the 14th Amendment.

The voting-rights group that objected to Trump’s candidacy in Illinois vowed to appeal the state election board’s decision, launching a legal battle that could well end up in the lap of the Democratically-controlled state Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

“On appeal, we expect that the lllinois 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,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech For People.

The group is representing five Illinois voters who objected to Trump’s candidacy. Involved with the group as co-counsel are the Chicago law firm, Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, and Illinois election lawyer Ed Mullen.

Before today’s decision by the state elections board, Illinois was among 13 states with pending objections to Trump’s candidacy based on the 14th Amendment clause, according to the non-profit, non-partisan legal analysis group, Lawfare.

Two additional states, Colorado and Maine, opted to remove Trump from their respective ballots.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruling justifying that move is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on Feb. 8th. A Maine court has returned that case to the state’s secretary of state with orders to make a new determination on Trump’s ballot eligibility once the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Colorado case.

On his social media platform, Trump praised Tuesday’s unanimous ruling.

“Thank you to the Illinois State Board of Elections for ruling 8-0 in protecting the Citizens of our Country from the Radical Left Lunatics who are trying to destroy it,” Trump wrote.

Dave McKinney covers Illinois government and politics for WBEZ and was the long-time Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.
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