Group objecting to Donald Trump’s place on Illinois primary ballot takes its case to court

Rebuffed by the State Board of Elections, a group seeking to have former President Donald Trump disqualified from Illinois’ March 19 GOP primary ballot based on the “insurrection clause” of the U.S. Constitution is seeking an expedited appeal of the board’s ruling in Cook County Circuit Court.

Recognizing a tight timeline for ballots to be prepared and printed, the group is asking the court to move quickly and said it anticipates the case will eventually go before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Democratic justices hold a 5-2 majority on the state’s high court.

The appeal, filed by five voters who are backed by the group Free Speech for People, was made only hours after the election board said Tuesday that it lacked the authority to decide complex constitutional questions such as whether Trump’s actions in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol made him ineligible for the office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Under that section, those who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution “as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state,” shall not be able to serve in Congress or “hold any office, civil or military” if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution.

To avoid the constitutional issues, the board voted 8-0 to reject an objection to Trump contending the former president “knowingly” filed a false statement of candidacy stating he was qualified to hold the office of president.

The appeal notes that Illinois election authorities face a Friday deadline for having sufficient ballots printed to mail to military and overseas voters, and that Feb. 8 is the scheduled first day for mailing out vote-by-mail ballots and for early voting to be conducted at local election board offices.

“Given the matters of significant public interest at issue in this case, it is highly likely that the case will ultimately be resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court,” the appeal said. “Thus, a prompt ruling from this (circuit) court, to allow sufficient time for further appellate review in advance of the looming ballot deadlines, is of the utmost importance.”

Feb. 8 also is the day the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in an appeal of a December ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court which found Trump had engaged in insurrection in seeking to block the counting of Electoral College votes that made Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Colorado’s high court ordered Trump’s name stricken from that state’s ballot, but stayed its ruling pending the U.S. Supreme Court appeal.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, the state’s top election official, found Trump ineligible for that state’s ballot, but that ruling also has been stayed pending appeal.

At Tuesday’s Illinois election board hearing, Matt Piers, an attorney for the group objecting to Trump’s placement on the ballot, contended board members had a duty to decide the constitutional question of disqualification and that they were misinterpreting previous state Supreme Court rulings over the limitations of their power.

But Trump campaign attorney Adam Merrill countered that Trump “did not engage in insurrection” and said the board correctly found the constitutional issues of disqualification were beyond its jurisdiction. He contended the “insurrection clause” was meant to be enforced by Congress and that it does not apply to the office of president.

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