Illinois judge orders Trump's removal from state's GOP primary ballot

 March 3, 2024

Efforts to deny American voters the ability to cast their ballots for the presidential candidate of their choosing continued apace last week, when a Cook County, Illinois, circuit judge ordered her state's Board of Elections to remove Donald Trump from the state's primary ballot, as CBS News reports.

The ruling, from Judge Tracie R. Porter, has, however, been put on hold pending resolution of what she anticipated would be a forthcoming appeal by the former president.

Judge disqualifies Trump

In rendering her decision, Porter took the side of a group of Illinois voters who contended that Trump's disqualification from both the upcoming Republican primary and the November general election was supported by the so-called “insurrection clause” of the Constitution's 14th Amendment, as Reuters explains.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars anyone who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and subsequently “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” from holding public office.

The provision was enacted after the Civil War to stop former Confederate officials from taking office and has almost never been used to block ballot access in this way.

Though the constitutional language has also been used to support moves in Colorado and Maine to boot Trump from state ballots, critics point out that the former president has not been criminally charged with inciting insurrection, and he was also acquitted by the Senate in an impeachment trial on related allegations.

Trump files appeal

As Judge Porter clearly expected, Trump on Thursday lodged his appeal of the decision she issued just hours earlier, as the Associated Press notes.

Porter, in response, issued an order immediately staying the effect of the ruling “until the appeal is fully and finally resolved by the Illinois Appeals Court, First District, the Illinois Supreme Court and/or the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Trump's move was no surprise, given that immediately after the judge's disqualification decision was handed down, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung opined that “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.”

“This is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal,” he vowed, and that promise was swiftly upheld.

“Meaningless” decision

Weighing in on the Illinois ruling was legal analyst Irv Miller, who noted that because the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering two key cases involving Trump, one of which is related to his ballot disqualification in Colorado, the Cook County decision is “absolutely meaningless.”

The second case currently under SCOTUS review is related to Trump's claim of presidential immunity for actions taken during his time in office, conduct that forms the basis of rulings removing him from ballot eligibility, a fact that further emphasizes the importance of upcoming rulings from the high court.

The justices are slated to hear oral arguments on the immunity claim on April 22, having already heard from the parties in the Colorado case and, notably, casting what commentators asserted was a very skeptical eye toward the concept of disqualification by individual states.

Even the liberal justices on the high court appeared unconvinced that states have the power to unilaterally – and potentially determinatively – alter the dynamics of a national election, with Elena Kagan pointedly asking the attorney representing Colorado, “Like, what's a state doing deciding who gets to, who other citizens get to vote for for president?” and it is that critical take that may ultimately render the Illinois ruling just as “meaningless” as Miller suggested.

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