Electoral Board Issues Ruling in Action to Bar Trump from Ballot in Illinois

Today the Illinois State Officers Electoral Board rejected a challenge to Donald Trump’s eligibility to appear on the state presidential primary ballot. HSPRD, in collaboration with national non-profit Free Speech For People (FSFP) and Illinois election lawyer Ed Mullen, on behalf of a group of Illinois voters, filed the objection earlier this month under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, based on Trump’s engagement in the January 6, 2021 insurrection. HSPRD has already appealed the decision and expects the issues to be resolved in their favor by the Illinois courts.

The hearing officer overseeing the challenge, Republican former Illinois judge Clark Erickson, had found that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection and is disqualified under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment (the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause). In his recommendation to the Illinois State Officers Electoral Board, Judge Erickson recommended that the Board decide it lacks authority to rule on the Objection because doing so would require constitutional analysis, but directed that if the Board were to reach the merits, it should find that “the evidence presented at the hearing on January 26, 2024 proves by a preponderance of the evidence that President Trump engaged in insurrection, within the meaning of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and should have his name removed from the March, 2024 primary ballot in Illinois.” Judge Erickson held that while the evidence directs this determination, the ultimate decision should be made by the court, rather than the Electoral Board.

The Electoral Board’s General Counsel then provided a different recommendation: that under the Illinois Election Code, Objectors not only need to prove that Trump falsely swore that he was qualified for the office of President, but also that he “knowingly lied” when he did so. As the General Counsel put it, “Throughout this proceeding, Candidate has consistently denied that he engaged in insurrection and violated Section 3” and, even if he is in fact disqualified, “Candidate believes the opposite.” This unprecedented new requirement — that it is not enough that a candidate is ineligible for office, the candidate must “knowingly” lie about ineligibility — would undermine all Board candidate qualification reviews. For example, a candidate who honestly believed he lived in the proper legislative district, but in fact did not, would not make a “knowingly false” statement if he said he lived there. And a two-term president who subjectively believes that he was somehow “cheated” out of part of his first term would not make a “knowingly false” statement if he says he is eligible for a third term.

The Board followed the General Counsel’s recommendation and dismissed the challenge on the basis that Trump’s Statement of Candidacy is not “knowingly” false because Objectors have not proved that he subjectively believed that he is disqualified from the Presidency. The Board did not accept Trump’s arguments that he did not engage in insurrection, or that Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to him. In fact, one of the Republican members of the Board specifically noted that she agreed that Trump engaged in insurrection but voted to overrule the objection solely on the basis suggested by the General Counsel.

Every court and official that has addressed the merits of Trump’s qualifications under Section 3 has found that he engaged in insurrection after taking the oath of office and is therefore disqualified from the presidency. Like the hearing officer in Illinois, the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s Secretary of State have determined that Trump incited and engaged in the January 6th insurrection and is therefore ineligible to hold future public office under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“On appeal, we expect the Illinois courts to adopt Judge Erickson’s thoughtful analysis of the evidence and determine Trump is disqualified from office. This case was always destined for an appeal. While we disagree that the Electoral Board doesn’t have the authority to issue a disqualification decision, the courts certainly do,” said HSPRD attorney Caryn Lederer.

Click here to read CNN reporting on the Electoral Board decision.

Click here to watch the CBS news coverage of the Electoral Board decision.

Click here to read Associated Press reporting on the hearing officer’s report and recommendation.

Click here to read WBEZ reporting on the hearing officer’s report and recommendation.

Click here to read more about the Objection filed by HSPRD.

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