Trump will remain on Illinois primary ballot after 14th Amendment challenge

Donald Trump will remain on the 2024 presidential primary ballot in Illinois following a unanimous vote by the state’s Board of Elections to dismiss an attempt to remove the former president under the 14th Amendment.

On Tuesday, the board, composed of eight appointed members, dismissed a lawsuit brought by four Illinois voters and Free Speech For People that challenged the former president’s eligibility to appear on the ballot due to his alleged involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

The voters asked the electoral board to disqualify Mr Trump under Section Three of the 14th Amendment – known as the insurrection clause. They cited recent decisions in Colorado and Maine as examples of Mr Trump violating the little-known provision.

However, the Illinois Board of Election said that they did not believe they had the authority to determine Mr Trump’s eligibility because it raises a constitutional question and would require them to look outside their scope.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he manipulated, instigated, aided and abetted an insurrection on January 6,” Republican board member, Catherine McCrory said Tuesday morning. “However, it’s not my place to rule on that today.”

The board’s decision comes just two days after a former judge, who was hired to produce a nonbinding opinion on the matter, advised the electoral board to dismiss the voters’ complaint. 

Despite his recommendation, retired judge Clark Erickson acknowledged that the former president’s actions on January 6th were consistent with engaging in an insurrection. However, Mr Erickson said that definitively coming to that conclusion would require “significant and sophisticated constitutional analysis” which the board does not have.

During short oral arguments on Tuesday, Matthew Piers, the attorney representing the voters, argued that the state’s election code did not prevent the board from deciding Mr Trump’s eligibility and they have the responsibility of doing so. Mr Piers emphasised that evidence, found by the January 6 Congressional Committee, showed Mr Trump wanted to interrupt Congress’s certification of the election on January 6, 2021 – thus qualifying as an insurrection.

Adam Merill, representing Mr Trump, said the former president did not engage in an insurrection and that no evidence proves he took part in one. Mr Merrill told the board it would be “inappropriate” for the board to weigh in on the issue, citing the other states who have refused to remove Mr Trump’s name from their respective ballots.

That constitutional question is currently in the hands of the US Supreme Court which is prepared to hear oral arguments on Mr Trump’s ballot eligibility in Colorado next month.

Justices will determine if Colorado erred in their decision-making when determining January 6th was an insurrection and Mr Trump was  “an officer of the United States” while he was serving as the outgoing president.

So far, only Colorado and Maine have disqualified Mr Trump from the 2024 presidential primary ballot. The former president faces, or has faced, 14th Amendment challenges in at least 14 other states.

The decision can be appealed before the March 19th primary in Illinois.