By Sophia Tareen And Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press on January 30, 2024.
CHICAGO (AP) – Illinois’ election board on Tuesday kept former President Donald Trump on the state’s primary ballot, a week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether the Republican’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualifies him from the presidency.
The eight-member board’s unanimous ruling comes after its hearing officer, a retired judge and Republican, found that a “preponderance of the evidence” shows Trump is ineligible to run for president because he violated a constitutional ban on those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. But the hearing officer recommended the board let the courts make the ultimate decision.
The board, composed of four Democrats and four Republicans, agreed with a recommendation from its lawyer to let Trump remain on the ballot by determining it didn’t have the authority to determine whether he violated the constitution.
“This Republican believes there was an insurrection on Jan. 6,” said board member Catherine McCrory before her vote, adding that she didn’t believe the agency had the legal authority to enforce that conclusion.
Trump’s attorney urged the board not to get involved, contending the former president never engaged in insurrection but that wasn’t something it could determine. “We would recommend and urge the board to not wade into this,” attorney Adam Merrill said.
An attorney for the voters who objected to Trump’s presence on the ballot said they’d appeal to state court. “What’s happened here is an avoidance of a hot potato issue,” attorney Matthew Piers told reporters after the hearing. “I get the desire to do it, but the law doesn’t allow you to duck.”
The issue will likely be decided at a higher court, with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled next week to hear arguments in Trump’s appeal of a Colorado ruling declaring him ineligible for the presidency in that state.
The nation’s highest court has never ruled on a case involving Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was adopted in 1868 to prevent former confederates from returning to office after the Civil War but has rarely been used since then. Some legal scholars say the post-Civil War clause applies to Trump for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and encouraging his backers to storm the U.S. Capitol after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Dozens of cases have been filed around the country seeking to bar Trump from the presidency under Section 3. The Colorado case is the only one that succeeded in court. Most other courts and election officials have ducked the issue on similar grounds to Illinois, contending they don’t have jurisdiction to rule on the obscure constitutional issue.
Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State also ruled that Trump violated the 14th Amendment and is no longer eligible for the White House, but her ruling is on hold until the Supreme Court issues a decision.
Riccardi reported from Denver.