Cook County judge orders Donald Trump removed from Illinois primary ballot for his role in Jan. 6 riot at US Capitol

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A Cook County judge ruled Wednesday that former President Donald Trump’s name should be struck from the March 19 Illinois Republican primary ballot because he engaged in insurrection in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and is disqualified from holding the office of president.

Judge Tracie Porter made her ruling based on the case law surrounding the Colorado Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision in December that removed Trump from that state’s ballot based on the “insurrection clause” of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the Colorado decision.

While Porter ruled primary votes cast for Trump should not be counted by Illinois election officials, she stayed the effect of her ruling in anticipation of an appeal in higher state courts and a ruling from the nation’s highest court in the Colorado case.

The Trump campaign vowed to appeal Porter’s ruling shortly after it was issued.

“Today, an activist Democrat judge in Illinois summarily overruled the state’s Board of Elections and contradicted earlier decisions from dozens of other state and federal jurisdictions,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. “This is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal. In the meantime, President Trump remains on the Illinois ballot, is dominating the polls and will Make America Great Again!”

The case to remove Trump was brought on behalf of a group of Illinois voters backed by the organization Free Speech for People, which has pushed similar legal challenges to the former president’s access to the ballot in other states on 14th Amendment grounds.

“This is a historic victory,” Ron Fein, the legal director of Free Speech For People, said in a statement following Porter’s ruling. “Every court or official that has addressed the merits of Trump’s constitutional eligibility has found that he engaged in insurrection after taking the oath of office and is therefore disqualified from the presidency.”

Porter ruled that in signing his statement of candidacy for the Illinois Republican primary ballot on Jan. 4, Trump “falsely swore” that he was “‘legally qualified’ for the office he sought because the Colorado Supreme Court had already ruled that the former president “had been found to engage in insurrection.”

Porter’s ruling came in an appeal of the Illinois State Board of Elections’ Jan. 30 decision to reject the effort to disqualify Trump from the primary ballot due to his role in the Jan. 6 riot, which was aimed at preventing the count of Electoral College votes from the states that made Democrat Joe Biden president.

Under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, those who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution “as an officer of the United States” shall not be able to serve in Congress or “hold any office, civil or military” if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution.

In its 8-0 bipartisan vote, the elections board allowed Trump’s name to stay on the ballot and rejected an objection that he “knowingly” lied by signing a statement of candidacy attesting he was qualified to hold the office of the presidency.

Porter, in her ruling, found the State Board of Elections’ decision that Trump was eligible for the ballot because he did not knowingly file a false statement of candidacy was “without basis and contrary to existing Illinois law.”

Regardless of how Porter had ruled in the case, an appeal was expected, with proponents of Trump’s removal from the ballot seeking to get the issue to the Illinois Supreme Court, where Democrats hold a 5-2 advantage. The Colorado case was decided on a party-line vote led by Democrats.

Porter said she found the Colorado Supreme Court majority’s opinion was “well-articulated, rational and established in historic context.”

“This court shares the Colorado Supreme Court’s sentiments that (it) did not reach its conclusions lightly. This court also realizes the magnitude of this decision and its impact on the upcoming primary Illinois elections,” Porter wrote.

In her ruling, the judge said she also took into account the findings of a State Board of Elections hearing examiner, Clark Erickson, a retired Republican judge from Kankakee County, that Trump had “engaged in insurrection” based on the findings of “a legally authorized investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Porter rejected arguments from Trump’s attorneys that the 14th Amendment’s definition of “office” to be considered for disqualification excluded the presidency and that states on their own could not take action under the amendment without congressional authorization.

She said “a common sense approach” was “that the President of the United States must be included in the language” of the amendment.

Porter acknowledged the state elections board acted properly in not considering Trump’s eligibility for office under the 14th Amendment due to previous Illinois Supreme Court rulings that prohibited the board from using constitutional analysis in its decisions on candidate access to the ballot.

“It is undisputed that the Electoral Board cannot conduct this type of constitutional analysis any more than it could declare a provision of the Election Code or Illinois Constitution unconstitutional,” Porter wrote.

“While the Electoral Board could not conduct constitutional analysis of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to determine whether (Trump) was disqualified for the office of president, this court may do so,” she wrote.

The court decision came the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in April on Trump’s claim of absolute immunity for any criminal acts that he allegedly committed as president to interfere in the 2020 election results.