Trump Stays on Ballot in Illinois, State Board Rules

The Illinois State Board of Elections rejected a complaint on Tuesday that accused former President Donald J. Trump of insurrection by trying to remain in office after losing the 2020 election, and that sought to disqualify him from the state’s primary ballot.

The appointed eight-member board, which includes four Democrats and four Republicans, determined unanimously that Mr. Trump could appear on the March 19 ballot and that the board did not have the authority to decide whether he had engaged in insurrection. Lawyers for residents who challenged Mr. Trump’s eligibility said they planned to appeal in the courts.

Though the Illinois result was a victory for Mr. Trump, the process revealed potential vulnerabilities in his arguments as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a separate case out of Colorado about whether he is eligible for this year’s ballot.

Two Republicans who heard the Illinois case — an elections board member who is a former prosecutor, and a former judge appointed by the board to hear arguments — said they believed Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, when a riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol disrupted certification of the presidential election.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he manipulated, instigated, aided and abetted an insurrection on Jan. 6,” Catherine S. McCrory, the Republican board member, said before casting her vote on Tuesday in a downtown Chicago conference room.

Clark Erickson, the former Republican judge appointed to hear arguments in the case, reached similar conclusions. In an opinion made public over the weekend, Mr. Erickson said that he believed Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection. But he said that he did not believe the board had the authority to disqualify Mr. Trump on those grounds, and that the question should instead be left to the courts.

“The evidence shows that President Trump understood the divided political climate in the United States,” wrote Mr. Erickson, who previously served as a state judge in Kankakee County. He added 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.”

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. Courts in several other states have allowed Mr. Trump to remain on their primary ballots.

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.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly denied that he engaged in insurrection, and argued that in any case, the constitutional clause in question did not apply to the presidency. Adam Merrill, a lawyer for the former president, said he was pleased with the board’s vote and that his client was prepared to fight an appeal in the courts.

Ron Fein, the legal director of Free Speech for People, which helped bring the challenges in Illinois and other states, said in a statement that he believed the board’s decision would be overturned by the courts.

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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