Political Speech

Illinois Election Officials To Weigh Removing Trump From Primary Ballot

The U.S. Capitol Building is stormed by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021
In a Reuters file photo, a mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Jan. 6, 2021. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

By The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ election board on Tuesday is scheduled to consider 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 Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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 attempt to keep Trump’s name off Illinois’ March 19 primary 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’s campaign has not returned messages seeking comment.

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.