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Trump Faces Ballot Challenge In Illinois Minutes After Filing His Petitions

By PETER HANCOCK

Capitol News Illinois

phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is now among the growing list of states in which former President Donald Trump will have to fight to have his name appear on the 2024 election ballots.

A group of five voters filed a joint objection to Trump’s candidacy Thursday, arguing that Trump should be disqualified under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits anyone who took part in an insurrection against the United States from holding federal office.

The objection alleges that Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections, including his involvement in events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, amounted to an insurrection.

“Consequently, Donald J. Trump is disqualified from, and ineligible to hold, the office of President of the United States,” the objection states. “Accordingly, his nomination papers are invalid under Illinois law because when Trump swore he was ‘qualified’ for the presidential office, as required by (state statute), he did so falsely.”

Thursday was the first day for presidential candidates to file petitions for the March 19 primary ballot. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website, the Trump campaign filed its petitions at 8 a.m., along with fellow Republican candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Texas businessman Ryan L. Binkley.

On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden’s campaign filed petitions, along with Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson.

As of Thursday evening, Trump was the only candidate facing an objection. The deadline for filing objections is Friday, Jan. 12.

Similar objections have been filed in multiple other states. So far, however, they have only been upheld in Colorado and Maine. The Trump campaign has filed appeals in both of those cases, including a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Colorado case.

Matthew Piers, a Chicago-based attorney who filed the Illinois objection, said in an interview that the cases highlight the differences in election laws among the various states.

In some states, he said, primary elections are considered operations of political parties, not the states themselves, and therefore are not subject to rules set by the state. But in Illinois, he said, state law specifically requires candidates to state on their nominating petitions that they are qualified for the office they are seeking.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution requires presidents to be “natural born citizens” who are at least 35 years of age and who have been residents of the United States for at least 14 years.

But the 14th amendment – enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War – adds more conditions, barring any former public officials who previously took an oath to support the Constitution from holding certain public offices in the future if they ever engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or gave aid or comfort to its enemies.

The objection cites numerous other government agencies and officials who have concluded that the events of Jan. 6, 2021, were an insurrection, including decisions of the Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine secretary of state to keep Trump’s name off the ballot in those states.

The objection also cites several recent court rulings, including some involving people convicted of crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.

Legal challenges to a candidate’s qualifications for office are not uncommon in Illinois. Dozens of them are currently pending at the Illinois State Board of Elections against candidates for the General Assembly and various judicial positions, mostly based on claims that petition signatures were invalid or insufficient.

In 2016, a challenge was filed against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton based on her petition signatures. And in 2012, Democratic President Barack Obama faced three nearly identical challenges to his candidacy based on false allegations about his citizenship.

State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said in an email the objection to Trump’s candidacy will be investigated by a hearing officer who will make a recommendation to the board’s general counsel. The full, eight-member bipartisan board will consider the challenge at a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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