CHICAGO — The Illinois State Officers Electoral Board rejected today a challenge, under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, to Donald Trump’s eligibility to appear on the state’s presidential primary and general election ballot, which a diverse group of Illinois voters initiated on January 4, 2024. The challengers will immediately appeal and expect the issues to be resolved in their favor by the Illinois courts.

The hearing officer, a Republican former Illinois judge, had found that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection and is disqualified under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment (the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause). In his recommendation to the Illinois State Officers Electoral Board, Judge Clark Erickson found that the Illinois statute governing the Electoral Board did not allow it to decide the merits of the challenge, but further found that if the Board were to reach the merits, it should find that “the evidence presented at the hearing on January 26, 2024 proves by a preponderance of the evidence that President Trump engaged in insurrection, within the meaning of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and should have his name removed from the March, 2024 primary ballot in Illinois.” Judge Erickson held that while the evidence directs this determination, the ultimate decision should be made by a court, rather than the Electoral Board.

The Board’s General Counsel then provided a different recommendation: that Trump’s Statement of Candidacy is not “knowingly” false because he subjectively believes that he is not disqualified. As the General Counsel put it, “Throughout this proceeding, Candidate has consistently denied that he engaged in insurrection and violated Section 3” and, even if he is in fact disqualified, “Candidate believes the opposite.” This unprecedented new requirement — that it is not enough that a candidate is ineligible for office, the candidate must “knowingly” lie about ineligibility — would undermine all Board candidate qualification reviews. For example, a candidate who honestly believed he lived in the proper legislative district, but in fact did not, would not make a “knowingly false” statement if he said he lived there. And a two-term president who subjectively believes that he was somehow “cheated” out of part of his first term would not make a “knowingly false” statement if he says he is eligible for a third term.

The Board followed the General Counsel’s recommendation and dismissed on the basis that Trump’s Statement of Candidacy is not “knowingly” false because he subjectively believes that he is not disqualified. The Board did not accept Trump’s arguments that he did not engage in insurrection, or that Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to him. In fact, one of the Republican members of the Board specifically noted that she agreed that Trump engaged in insurrection, but voted to overrule the objection solely on the basis suggested by the General Counsel.

Every court and official that has addressed the merits of Trump’s qualifications under Section 3 has found that he engaged in insurrection after taking the oath of office and is therefore disqualified from the presidency. Like the hearing officer in Illinois, the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s Secretary of State have established that Trump incited and engaged in the January 6th insurrection and is therefore ineligible to hold future public office under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“On appeal, we expect that the lllinois courts will uphold Judge Erickson’s thoughtful analysis of why Trump is disqualified from office, but–with the greatest respect–correct him and the Board on why Illinois law authorizes that ruling despite Trump’s subjective belief that the Constitution doesn’t apply to him,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, which serves as co-lead counsel in the matter, along with Illinois co-counsel Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym and Illinois election lawyer Ed Mullen.

Read the decision here.