The candidacy of former President Donald Trump in the Illinois primary is under scrutiny, with a state hearing officer recommending that the matter should be decided by the courts. This development follows a report by WBEZ detailing the retired Republican judge’s scathing assessment of Trump’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection. The full Illinois State Board of Elections is set to deliberate on this issue on Tuesday.
The objection to Trump’s candidacy in Illinois was raised by a group of state voters, a national voting-rights organization, and two Chicago law firms. The argument centers on the 14th Amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding public office. This case is part of a broader strategy to prevent Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot in various states.
At the heart of the discussion is whether Trump’s actions during the January 6 insurrection disqualify him under the 14th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing a similar case in Colorado.
Clark Erickson, the retired judge serving as the hearing officer, expressed in his recommendation that the constitutional dispute over the 14th Amendment’s application should be settled in the courts. Erickson highlighted Trump’s actions during the Capitol breach, noting particularly a tweet about Vice President Mike Pence as evidence of Trump’s involvement in the insurrection.
Despite his critical assessment, Erickson opined that the State Board of Elections is not equipped to engage in the complex constitutional analysis required to make this decision. He compared resolving this issue within the expedited schedule of an election board hearing to a metaphorical two-minute boxing round in a telephone booth.
Erickson’s recommendation was twofold. While suggesting the case should be dismissed in Illinois, he also stated that if the board disagreed, it should find sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump engaged in insurrection as defined by the 14th Amendment and remove him from the March 2024 primary ballot.
The voting rights organization involved in the objection lauded Erickson’s acknowledgment of Trump’s participation in an insurrection. They expressed optimism that the board or Illinois courts would use this finding to prevent Trump from appearing on the state’s ballot.
The final decision on Trump’s candidacy now lies with the eight-member State Board of Elections, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Achieving a consensus to remove Trump from the ballot would require unanimous agreement among the Democratic members and at least one Republican member to break ranks.
Should the board not reach this conclusion, the objectors are prepared to escalate the matter to circuit court, potentially leading to a review by the Illinois Supreme Court. The Trump campaign has reserved comment until after the State Board of Elections makes its decision on Tuesday.