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Judge rules Illinois challenge to Donald Trump’s candidacy won’t be delayed

Former President Donald Trump takes in the crowd on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at a “Save America!” Rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Former President Donald Trump takes in the crowd in June 2022 at a “Save America!” Rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill.

A Cook County judge Wednesday denied a bid by former Republican President Donald Trump to stall an objection to his candidacy in Illinois until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules whether he is constitutionally eligible to seek reelection.

A group of five voters and a national voting rights group lodged an objection to Trump’s Illinois nominating petitions on grounds that he should be barred as a candidate under a prohibition in the 14th Amendment that bans insurrectionists from seeking public office.

Judge Tracie Porter’s decision was a bit of a status quo — she also denied a bid by the objectors to put their case against Trump on a fast track toward the Democratic-controlled Illinois Supreme Court, instead setting another hearing on the election dispute for Feb. 16. She said the hearing on the merits of the challenge will be held in person at the Daley Center.

That sets the stage for a possible decision on whether a bipartisan state electoral panel acted properly in deciding unanimously that Trump’s name belonged on millions of Illinois ballots for the state’s March 19 primary.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Thursday over whether the Colorado Supreme Court erred when it found in December that Trump is barred from the presidency under the 14th Amendment.

Adam Merrill, a Chicago-based lawyer representing Trump in the Cook County ballot challenge, told the judge Wednesday that observers expect the U.S. Supreme Court to rule swiftly.

He also said the electoral board’s decision in favor of Trump appearing on the state’s primary ballot justified a stay on the objection, ensuring Trump’s supporters in Illinois a chance to support him.

“I can tell you there are a lot of people in Illinois who expressed an interest and desire to vote for President Trump,” Merrill said.

Chicago lawyer Caryn Lederer, who is representing the objectors to Trump’s candidacy, accused Merrill of “taking a position that voters who submit votes that are disregarded and disenfranchised” if Trump is disqualified “don’t matter.”

“Each day that we are able to resolve this case before more election deadlines pass, before more ballots go out, is a day that saves confusion and problematic scrambling in the election,” Lederer told the judge.

The Colorado Supreme Court found that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which interrupted the Electoral College vote count, was an insurrection “under any viable definition.” Further, the court found that Trump’s related behavior amounted to “overt, voluntary, and direct participation.”

The 14th Amendment bars from “any office, civil or military, under the United States” anyone who previously took an oath as an “officer of the United States” to support the Constitution but then engaged in “insurrection or rebellion.”

Trump’s lawyers told the U.S. Supreme Court the amendment doesn’t apply because the president is not an “officer of the United States” under the Constitution and because he did not engage in “anything that qualifies as ‘insurrection.’ ”

Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ and was the Chicago Sun-Times’s longtime Springfield bureau chief. Jon Seidel covers federal courts for the Sun-Times.

Dave McKinney is an Illinois politics reporter at WBEZ after spending 19 years as the Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief with additional stops at Reuters and the Daily Herald.
Jon Seidel covers the federal courts for the Chicago Sun-Times.