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Ruling expected next week on bid to block Trump from Illinois ballot

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Complete coverage of the local and national primary and general election, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

A Cook County judge said she hopes to rule next week on whether former President Donald Trump should be disqualified from Illinois’ ballot under the 14th Amendment for allegedly engaging in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

The decision by Judge Tracie Porter will follow more than three hours of arguments Friday at the Daley Center. And it will likely land less than a month before Illinois’ March 19 primary election. But unclear is whether it will arrive before the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue at a national level in the context of Trump’s disqualification in Colorado.

A ruling that finds Trump disqualified from the Illinois ballot would be significant — even historic — but likely inconsequential in the end. Trump is unlikely to win the state in the November general election. Meanwhile, Trump delegates on the March ballot have been certified and would still be free to vote for Trump at the Republican National Convention.

Still, the controversy is part of a national conversation over whether Trump is disqualified from the presidency because of his actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and whether that attack amounted to an insurrection.

Meanwhile, attorneys for five objecting Illinois voters insist that the Supreme Court’s pending decision will not resolve the challenge in Illinois. They also pushed back during Friday’s hearing on the notion that “there’s just nothing that can be done” when it comes to the March primary, in which early voting is underway.

“The Board of Elections doesn’t throw up its hands when there’s a late-breaking decision,” attorney Caryn Lederer said.

Rather, Lederer and her colleagues have argued that voters can be informed of Trump’s disqualification, should the judge rule that way.

Friday’s hearing played out despite a bid by Trump’s legal team to convince the First District Appellate Court to put the matter on hold. The appellate court denied that request Thursday. Porter said she hopes to hand down her own ruling Thursday or Friday of next week.

During her presentation to Porter on Friday, Lederer played footage from the Jan. 6 attack, edited to include comments made by Trump that day. Two of Trump’s three lawyers were seen watching closely. A third glanced at it from time to time while otherwise taking notes.

The State Board of Elections voted unanimously last month to reject the bid to block Trump from Illinois’ ballot. But it did so in part by finding that Trump’s declaration that he was qualified for the presidency was not “knowingly false.”

Lederer on Friday called that an “impossible” and “unworkable” standard to apply going forward, and that’s partly why she said the challenge to Trump’s candidacy in Illinois won’t be fully resolved at the national level by the Supreme Court.

Trump lawyer Adam Merrill countered that the standard has “always been there,” and it was correctly applied by the election board.

Porter gave few hints of how she might rule while questioning the lawyers. She asked several questions about the justification used by the election board. But she also asked Trump’s lawyers, “Is it important to understand the underlying reason why this mob of people came together and what they were actually trying to do” at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump lawyer Nicholas Nelson told her that “the reason matters,” and he went on to insist that a political riot that forms simply to protest a law falls short of insurrection. To qualify, he said the mob must intend to supplant existing law with its own. Regardless, Trump’s lawyers say he did not “engage” in those events.

However, Trump’s lawyers did not spend Friday’s hearing defending the events of Jan. 6. Rather, Merrill told Porter the events of that day were “deplorable” and “shameful.” He said there was “clearly evidence of crimes and violence.”

“Some of them very serious,” Merrill said. “And repugnant.”

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles



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