Trump Stays on Ballot in Illinois, State Board Rules

The Illinois State Board of Elections rejected a complaint on Tuesday that sought to disqualify former President Donald J. Trump from the state’s primary ballot.

The appointed eight-member board determined unanimously that it did not have the authority to decide whether Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection, the basis for the complaint. Its ruling can be appealed to the courts.

The board had appointed a former Republican judge, Clark Erickson, to hear arguments in the case. In an opinion made public over the weekend, Mr. Erickson said that he believed Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection by attempting to remain in office after losing the 2020 election. But Mr. Erickson said he did not believe that the board had the authority to disqualify Mr. Trump on those grounds, and that the question should instead be left to the courts.

Mr. Trump, the leading Republican candidate for president, has faced official challenges to his candidacy in 35 states and has so far been found ineligible for primaries in two of them, Colorado and Maine. Mr. Trump is still likely to appear on the primary ballots in both of those states, because the ineligibility decisions are on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers an appeal of the Colorado ruling.

The Illinois challenge, like those in other states, is based on a clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that bars government officials who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.

At a hearing last week in downtown Chicago, lawyers for Illinois residents objecting to Mr. Trump’s candidacy accused the former president of insurrection. They played video footage showing the riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump denied that he had engaged in insurrection, and argued that in any case, the constitutional clause in question did not apply to the presidency.

In his written opinion, Mr. Erickson recommended that the board dismiss the voters’ complaint about Mr. Trump, because Illinois Supreme Court precedent prevented the Elections Board from engaging in the “significant and sophisticated constitutional analysis” that would be necessary to reach a ruling. But if the board disagreed with him on the jurisdictional question, Mr. Erickson said he believed they should disqualify Mr. Trump from the primary ballot.

Mr. Erickson, who reviewed the findings of the Colorado Supreme Court and the U.S. House committee that investigated the Capitol riot, laid out the 14th Amendment case against Mr. Trump in detail in his opinion.

“The evidence shows that President Trump understood the divided political climate in the United States,” Mr. Erickson wrote, adding that Mr. Trump “exploited that climate for his own political gain by falsely and publicly claiming the election was stolen from him, even though every single piece of evidence demonstrated that his claim was demonstrably false.”

Illinois, a Democratic stronghold in presidential politics, is not expected to be competitive in November’s general election. But it is a delegate-rich state where the Republican primary could help Mr. Trump lock down his party’s nomination.

Many observers expect the U.S. Supreme Court to make the final decision on the question of Mr. Trump’s eligibility. Oral arguments before the court in the Colorado appeal are scheduled for Feb. 8.

In the meantime, with primary season underway and Mr. Trump holding a commanding lead on the Republican side, challenges to his eligibility remain unresolved in more than 15 states.

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