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Trump can stay on Illinois 2024 ballot after 14th Amendment challenge, officials say

Donald Trump can remain on Illinois’ presidential primary ballot, the State Board of Elections voted on Tuesday, dismissing another challenge to the former president's eligibility under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, also known as the insurrection clause.

The eight-person, bipartisan board voted unanimously against a lawsuit brought by a group of Illinois voters represented by national group Free Speech for the People and Illinois elections lawyers.

The body said it lacked the authority to decide on the challenge, which cited Trump's push to overturn his 2020 election loss and accused him of inciting the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol where Congress was gathered to certify Joe Biden as the next president.

Trump denies all wrongdoing and has previously attacked the 14th Amendment cases as anti-democratic.

“Trump did not engage in insurrection, as that term is used in the Constitution," Trump's attorney Adam Merrill said on Tuesday. "It is a complicated legal term that has been rarely interpreted and it wasn't even articulated correctly by the hearing officer in this case and, frankly, never should have reached it because of the lack of evidence, and because of the lack of jurisdiction."

The Illinois board considered the eligibility challenge for roughly an hour before unanimously affirming Trump’s candidacy.

Free Speech for the People said they will appeal and expect that, under review, the courts would show "why Illinois law authorizes that ruling despite Trump’s subjective belief that the Constitution doesn’t apply to him."

In his own statement, on social media, Trump celebrated the board's ruling and said it was "protecting the Citizens of our Country from the Radical Left Lunatics who are trying to destroy it."

The decision comes just over a week before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Feb. 8 on a similar 14th Amendment challenge to Trump out of Colorado, after that state's top court ruled the former president ineligible for their primary ballot under Section 3.

PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in New York City, Jan. 26, 2024. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in New York City, Jan. 26, 2024. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Dozens of 14th Amendment challenges to Trump's eligibility have been considered by courts, election boards or secretaries of state over the past year.

Only the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine's secretary of state have ruled Trump ineligible to participate in their primary process.

The case in Maine is set for reconsideration by Secretary Shenna Bellows after the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the Colorado case.

The Illinois board on Tuesday upheld the recommendation of hearing officer Clark Erickson, who oversaw a two-hour administrative hearing for the case on Friday and suggested the body rule that Trump engaged in insurrection within the meaning of Section 3 but should still not have his name removed from the state’s 2024 primary ballot.

MORE: Trump asks US Supreme Court to keep him on ballot in 14th Amendment case

PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in New York City, Jan. 26, 2024. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in New York City, Jan. 26, 2024. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

"I want it to be clear that this Republican believes that there was an insurrection on Jan. 6. There's no doubt in my mind that he manipulated, instigated, aided and abetted an insurrection on Jan. 6,” board member Catherine S. McCrory, a Republican, said on Tuesday.

Erickson, a Republican retired state judge, wrote last week that the Illinois State Board of Elections should reject the case against Trump because their body “isn’t suited” to rule on this issue -- that a decision on the challenge instead belongs to the courts.

He also noted the difficulty of considering such a "sophisticated" case ahead of the state's fast-approaching March 19 primary.

PHOTO: Illinois State Board of Elections members, from left, including Rick Terven Sr., Jack Vrett, Vice Chair Laura Donahue, Catherine McCrory, Cristina Cray and Jennifer Ballard Croft meet on Nov. 21, 2023, in Chicago.  (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Illinois State Board of Elections members, from left, including Rick Terven Sr., Jack Vrett, Vice Chair Laura Donahue, Catherine McCrory, Cristina Cray and Jennifer Ballard Croft meet on Nov. 21, 2023, in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images, FILE)

MORE: Experts dissect key arguments in Colorado Supreme Court 14th Amendment ruling

"In the context of the events and circumstances of January 6, 2024," Erickson recommended the board favor the Illinois voters' argument that Trump engaged in insurrection "on the merits by a preponderance of the evidence."

He then concluded: “The Election Code is simply not suited for issues involving constitutional analysis. Those issues belong in the Courts."

"All in all, attempting to resolve a constitutional issue within the expedited schedule of an election board hearing is somewhat akin to scheduling a two-minute round between heavyweight boxers in a telephone booth,” he wrote.

ABC News' Lalee Ibssa and Soo Rin Kim contributed to this report.

Trump can stay on Illinois 2024 ballot after 14th Amendment challenge, officials say originally appeared on abcnews.go.com