Cook County judge orders Trump removed from GOP ballot but holds decision pending appeal

Ruling found election board’s previous decision ‘clearly erroneous’

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs after speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2024. A Cook County judge ordered the Illinois State Board of Elections to take former President Donald Trump's name off of the state's March 19 primary ballot Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, but placed her order on hold until Friday to allow an appeal. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

SPRINGFIELD – A Cook County judge on Wednesday ordered former President Donald Trump’s name to be removed from the March 19 Republican primary ballot but stayed her order until Friday to give time for an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In a lengthy decision, Judge Tracie Porter said the Illinois State Board of Elections reached the wrong conclusion last month when it rejected a petition by five Illinois voters who objected to Trump’s candidacy. The objectors claimed Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol amounted to an “insurrection” and, thus, disqualified him under the 14th Amendment.

“Judge Porter’s reasoned decision contributes to the growing consensus of courts recognizing and condemning Trump’s decisive role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Caryn Lederer, lead attorney for the objectors, said in a statement Wednesday. “The decision recognizes the importance of rule of law and upholding the mandate of the U.S. Constitution.”

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung issued a statement saying the campaign would appeal the decision, which he called “unconstitutional.”

“Today, an activist Democrat judge in Illinois summarily overruled the state’s board of elections and contradicted earlier decisions from dozens of other state and federal jurisdictions,” he said, noting Trump’s name will remain on the ballot as the case progresses.

The decision comes at the same time the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a similar challenge to Trump’s candidacy in Colorado. The high court heard oral arguments in that case Feb. 8 but has not yet issued a decision.

The objection in Illinois was first heard by an administrative hearing officer who recommended the complaint be dismissed. Clark Erickson, a retired Republican judge, said Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol likely constituted an insurrection, but that such questions were beyond the scope of the Board of Elections’ authority.

On Jan. 30, the Board of Elections agreed and voted unanimously to dismiss the objection. The board also said the objectors had failed to show that Trump knowingly lied on his statement of candidacy in Illinois when he declared he was legally qualified to hold the office of president.

The objectors then requested a judicial review in Cook County Circuit Court.

In her order Wednesday, Porter reversed that decision, noting that Trump filed his statement of candidacy on Jan. 4, 2024, more than a week after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump had engaged in an insurrection and was therefore disqualified from the Colorado ballot.

Porter pointed to the election board’s findings that Trump had likely engaged insurrection, concluding Trump “falsely swore” that he was “legally qualified” for the presidency. She called the board’s decision in finding Trump should stay on the ballot “clearly erroneous.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Peter Hancock - Capitol News Illinois

Peter Hancock covers Illinois news and and politics for Capitol News Illinois