Illinois judge removes Trump from ballot because of ‘insurrectionist ban’

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In a surprise move, an Illinois judge has removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s so-called “insurrectionist ban.”

The decision is paused, giving Trump a short period of time to appeal.

Wednesday’s unexpected decision comes as a similar anti-Trump challenge from Colorado is pending before the US Supreme Court, which is widely expected to reject arguments that Trump is barred from office.

Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter heavily relied on the prior finding by the Colorado Supreme Court, calling Colorado’s “rationale compelling.”

“The court also realizes the magnitude of this decision and its impact on the upcoming primary Illinois elections,” Porter wrote. “The Illinois State Board of Election shall remove Donald J. Trump from the ballot for the General Primary Election on March 19, 2024, or cause any votes cast for him to be suppressed.”

The judge stripped Trump from the Illinois ballot one month after the anti-Trump challenge was dismissed by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

retired Republican judge who was tapped by the election board to examine the matter held an evidentiary hearing and concluded that Trump should be barred from the ballot because he engaged in the January 6, 2021, insurrection. But he determined that only courts, and not the board, had the power to implement his recommendation.

The election board tossed the anti-Trump case in a unanimous and bipartisan vote because it said it didn’t have jurisdiction to review the matter.

Illinois is now the third state where Trump was booted from the ballot, after Colorado and Maine. But those decisions were paused pending the appeal of the Colorado case to the US Supreme Court.

Trump can appeal the judge’s decision in Illinois state courts.

He has already beaten back similar lawsuits in many other states.

The Illinois challenge was filed by a group of voters in coordination with Free Speech For People, a legal advocacy group that previously tried, but failed, to remove Trump from the ballot in MichiganMinnesota and Oregon.

At a hearing in late January, Porter pressed Trump’s lawyers on the difference between a “riot” and an “insurrection,” and whether Trump must first be convicted of a crime before he is barred from office.

“Is it important to understand why this mob of people came together and what they were actually trying to do?” Porter asked Trump’s lawyers, referring to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Rioters loyal to Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. - Jose Luis Magana/AP
Rioters loyal to Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. - Jose Luis Magana/AP

Trump attorney Nicholas Nelson described the events of January 6 as a “political riot,” comparing it to an angry mob, rather than a group with a specific series of legal aims.

“It was about one government act, and there’s no indication that the rioters had any plan,” Nelson said. “They were just angry.”

Illinois law requires candidates to certify that they are “qualified” for the office they’re seeking, which Trump did when he filed to run in the state’s GOP primary. Porter asked another Trump attorney, Adam Merrill, if Trump would need to be convicted of insurrection beforehand for his filing to be false.

“It would be much more difficult for us if that had happened,” Merrill said. “Here you don’t have that.”

Porter had previously declined Trump’s request to pause the proceedings until the US Supreme Court rules on the similar Colorado-based case challenge that barred him from the ballot in that state.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Eric Bradner contributed to this report.

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