The Illinois State Board of Elections on Tuesday rejected a complaint seeking to disqualify former President Donald J. Trump from the state’s primary ballot.
The appointed eight-member board unanimously determined that it did not have the authority to decide whether Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection, which is the basis of the complaint. His decision can be appealed to the courts.
The commission had appointed a former Republican judge, Clark Erickson, to hear arguments in the case. In an opinion released this weekend, Mr. Erickson said he believed Mr. Trump had engaged in an insurrection by trying to stay in power after losing the 2020 election. But Mr. Erickson said that he did not believe the board had the authority to disqualify Mr. Trump on these grounds, and that the issue should instead be left to the courts.
Mr. Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, has faced formal challenges to his candidacy in 35 states and has so far been found ineligible to run in primaries in two of them, Colorado and Maine. It is still likely that Mr. Trump will appear in the primary elections in those two states, as ineligibility rulings are on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers an appeal of the Colorado decision.
Illinois’ challenge, like those in other states, is based on a clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits government officials “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.
At a hearing last week in downtown Chicago, lawyers for Illinois residents opposed to Mr. Trump’s candidacy accused the former president of insurrection. They released video footage showing Trump supporters rioting at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers denied that he had engaged in an 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 against Mr. Trump because Illinois Supreme Court precedent prevented the board of elections from engaging in “the meaningful and sophisticated constitutional analysis” that would be necessary to reach a decision. . But if the board disagreed with him on the question of competence, Mr. Erickson said he thought it would have to 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 riots, detailed the 14th Amendment arguments against Mr. Trump 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 this climate for his own political gain by falsely and publicly claiming that the election had been stolen, even though every piece of evidence showed that his assertion was patently false.
Illinois, a Democratic stronghold in presidential politics, is not expected to be competitive in the November general election. But it’s a delegate-rich state where the Republican primary could help Mr. Trump secure his party’s nomination.
Many observers expect the U.S. Supreme Court to make the final decision on the question of Mr. Trump’s electability. Oral arguments before the court in the Colorado appeal are scheduled for February 8.
Meanwhile, with primary season underway and Mr. Trump holding a sizable lead on the Republican side, challenges to his electability remain unresolved in more than 15 states.