Effort to Remove Donald Trump From the Illinois Primary Ballot Continues in State Court

Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana, File)Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana, File)

Five residents who want former President Donald Trump removed from the Illinois primary ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are taking their fight to the courts.

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Trump is “not qualified for the presidency and cannot be placed on the ballot because he is ineligible under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, for having engaged in insurrection having previously sworn an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” they argue in a petition asking the Cook County Circuit Court to take the case on an expedited basis.

Time is of the essence, they argue, because election deadlines are rapidly approaching.

The primary will not be held until March 19, but per state laws, local county clerks and election authorities are supposed to have ballots ready to so send to overseas and military voters by Friday, Feb. 2. Next Thursday is supposed to be the first day to send out vote-by-mail ballots, and Feb. 8 is scheduled to be the first day Illinois voters can cast early votes.

“Given the matters of significant public interest at issue in this case, it is highly unlikely that the case will ultimately be resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court,” the Trump objectors’ attorneys wrote in their filing. “Thus, a prompt ruling from this Court, to allow sufficient time for further appellate review in advance of looming ballot deadlines, is of the utmost importance.”

The case was filed Tuesday afternoon, hours after the Trump objectors’ initial attempt to knock the former president from the ballot failed.

The Trump objectors, working in concert with the group Free Speech for People, had asked members of the Illinois State Board of Election to ban him from running for president in Illinois.

Their argument partially persuaded elections hearing officer Clark Erickson, a former Republican Kankakee County judge, who found Trump should be disqualified from running because he’s an insurrectionist.

But Erickson nonetheless recommended the elections board allow Trump to stay on the ballot because he said the question of whether Trump was in violation of the constitution was beyond the board’s scope.

The election board’s top attorney, Marni Malowitz, made a similar recommendation. Malowitz also told the board that it should side with Trump because there was no proof the former Republican president had “knowingly” lied when he signed a statement that he was qualified to again run for president. 

The bipartisan elections board unanimously voted in step with Malowitz’s recommendations. 

The board erred, the anti-Trump voters argue in their appeal to the court.

The lawyers wrote that the notion Trump’s eligibility should be judged on whether he knew he violated the constitution and therefore couldn’t run has “no legal basis and is unworkable in practice.”

“The Electoral Board is not only permitted, but is required, to evaluate objections like this one, which are based on weather a candidate meets the qualifications for the office he or she is seeking as attested to in their statutory requirements statement of candidacy,” the case reads.

Illinois’ election board members have previously taken up constitutional questions, such as whether a candidate meets citizenship and age requirements to run for federal office.

Even if the court finds the elections board lacks the jurisdiction, the petition argued the court does not. They say the court can, and should, determine Trump can’t legally run for president in Illinois.

A spokesman Wednesday said the state elections board had no comment, but during its special meeting on Tuesday board members indicated they were preparing for their work to be reviewed by the courts.

Attorneys for Trump argued Tuesday that voters should not be deprived of the opportunity to vote for him because Trump did not “engage” in insurrection and that none of his public comments and tweets on Jan. 6 promoted violence.

The Republican’s legal team also said that the state elections board’s procedure for making the ballot decision was too hurried, and lacked opportunity for Trump to fully present his case. 

Read the full filing below. 

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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