CHICAGO — Former President Donald Trump should be removed from Illinois’ primary ballot, but the decision should be left to the courts, a retired judge recommended Sunday to the state’s election board, arguing that it was clear Trump engaged in insurrection in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Illinois State Board of Elections is expected to consider the recommendation Tuesday. Attorneys for Trump and citizens seeking to keep the Republican former president off the ballot presented their arguments Friday before the hearing officer, Clark Erickson. The retired longtime Kankakee County judge is a Republican.
The Illinois effort to keep Trump off the March ballot is similar to those filed in several other states. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next month in a historic Colorado Supreme Court ruling to remove Trump from that state’s ballot. The case presents the high court with its first look at a provision of the 14th Amendment barring some people who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office.
Erickson’s 21-page recommendation concluded that a “preponderance of the evidence” presented proves that Trump engaged in insurrection.
But he said the election board can’t engage in the “significant and sophisticated constitutional analysis” required to remove Trump’s name before the March 19 primary.
“All in all, attempting to resolve a constitutional issue within the expedited schedule of an election board hearing is somewhat akin to scheduling a two-minute round between heavyweight boxers in a telephone booth,” he wrote.
Still, Erickson noted that even if the board disagrees with his reasoning, Trump’s name should be removed from the Illinois primary ballot.
The election board is split evenly between four Democrats and four Republicans.
Free Speech for People, which is leading the Illinois ballot effort, praised the recommendation from the Republican retired judge as “significant” but argued that Illinois law allows the board to make the ballot decision.
“We expect that the board and ultimately Illinois courts will uphold Judge Erickson’s thoughtful analysis of why Trump is disqualified from office, but — with the greatest respect — correct him on why Illinois law authorizes that ruling,” Ron Fein, legal director for the group, wrote in a Sunday statement.
Trump’s campaign did not immediately return a message left Sunday.