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Judge rejects request for hold on challenge to Donald Trump’s place on Illinois primary ballot

A Cook County judge on Wednesday rejected a request to put a hold on a legal challenge to former President Donald Trump’s place on the Illinois’ March 19 Republican primary ballot.

Attorneys for the former president had filed a motion to halt legal proceedings in Illinois until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on an appeal of a Colorado Supreme Court decision that found Trump disqualified from running for the presidency in that state under the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The nation’s highest court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Colorado case on Thursday.

Judge Tracie Porter also rejected a request made by those objecting to Trump’s place on the Illinois ballot for an expedited court schedule, and set a Feb. 16 hearing for an appeal of the Illinois State Board of Elections’ Jan. 30 decision that kept Trump’s name on the ballot.

The elections board said past Illinois Supreme Court rulings prevented it from considering complex constitutional analysis, such as whether Trump engaged in insurrection through his role in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol to try to prevent the counting of Electoral College votes that made Democrat Joe Biden president.

Instead, the board in a bipartisan 8-0 vote rejected an accompanying challenge that alleged Trump “knowingly” signed a certification of candidacy stating he was qualified to be president.

The group of five voters challenging Trump’s candidacy, backed by the group Free Speech for People, is appealing the board’s decision. They allege the board misread state Supreme Court decisions limiting its power on constitutional issues and that it created a new legal standard whereby someone can appear on the ballot if they signed their statement of candidacy, but did so not “knowing” they were unqualified.

Trump attorney Adam Merrill had sought a stay of Illinois court proceedings, citing the U.S. Supreme Court consideration of the Colorado case. The Colorado court, in a 4-3 ruling, ruled Trump committed “insurrection” and was disqualified from holding the presidency under Section 3 of the post-Civil War era constitutional amendment.

“Every single issue has been briefed and is going to be argued” before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Merrill told Judge Porter.

“It simply makes no sense for this court to be the only court in the country to continue proceedings here,” he said. “The stay is really the only decision that makes sense.”

Merrill also said there was no need to expedite consideration of Trump’s place on the GOP primary ballot under the state’s process of selecting nominating delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Illinois is sending 64 delegates to Milwaukee in July — 13 at-large delegates that go to the winner of the statewide presidential preference vote, and three from each of the state’s 17 congressional districts that are directly chosen by voters. Merrill noted that while Trump would be ineligible for the 13 at-large delegates if he was removed from the presidential preference portion of the ballot, voters could still select the 51 delegates pledged to his nomination.

But Caryn Lederer, representing the Trump challengers, said whatever the U.S. Supreme Court rules, it “cannot resolve Illinois state law issues.”

“Regardless of the Supreme Court decision of Section 3, without a ruling from this court, Donald Trump will remain on the Illinois ballot because the electoral board found that he did not knowingly lie when he said he was qualified for office,” Lederer said. “Even if the U.S. Supreme Court disqualifies candidate Trump from the presidency, he will remain on the Illinois ballot absent (state) court intervention.”

In urging the judge to agree to an expedited schedule, Lederer said “it is better for the state of Illinois for this case to be ready for a resolution up before the Illinois Supreme Court at the soonest possible moment. Otherwise it puts voters at significant risk of casting votes for a disqualified candidate, votes that will need to be disregarded, disenfranchising Illinois voters.”