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Illinois board rejects bid to take Trump off ballot

Illinois' election board has kept former US president Donald Trump on the state's primary ballot, a week before the US Supreme Court hears arguments on whether the Republican's role in the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol disqualifies him from the presidency.

The board's unanimous 8-0 ruling comes after its hearing officer, a retired judge and Republican, said a "preponderance of the evidence" suggested Trump was ineligible to run for president because he violated a constitutional ban on those who "engaged in insurrection" from holding office.

But the hearing officer recommended the board let the courts make the ultimate decision.

The board, composed of four Democrats and four Republicans, agreed with a recommendation from its lawyer to let Trump remain on the ballot by determining it did not have the authority to determine whether he violated the country's constitution.

Board member Catherine McCrory prefaced her vote with a statement: "I want it to be clear that this Republican believes that there was an insurrection on January 6. There's no doubt in my mind that he manipulated, instigated, aided and abetted an insurrection on January 6".

But McCrory said she agreed the board does not have jurisdiction to enforce that conclusion.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump has cheered a decision to keep his name on the primary ballot in Illinois. (AP PHOTO)

Trump's lawyer urged the board not to get involved, contending the former president never engaged in insurrection but that was not something it could determine.

"We would recommend and urge the board to not wade into this," lawyer Adam Merrill said.

Trump cheered the decision in a post on his social media network, Truth Social.

"The VOTE was 8-0 in favor of keeping your favorite President (ME!), on the Ballot," Trump wrote.

A lawyer for the voters who objected to Trump's presence on the ballot said they would appeal to Cook County circuit court.

"What's happened here is an avoidance of a hot potato issue," lawyer Matthew Piers told reporters after the hearing.

"I get the desire to do it but the law doesn't allow you to duck."

The issue will likely be decided at a higher court, with the US Supreme Court scheduled next week to hear arguments in Trump's appeal of a Colorado ruling declaring him ineligible for the presidency in that state.

Maine's Democratic secretary of state also ruled that Trump violated the 14th Amendment and is no longer eligible for the White House but her ruling is on hold until the Supreme Court issues a decision.

Trump's critics argue he's disqualified by the plain language of Section 3, which forbids those who swore an oath to "support" the constitution, then "engaged in insurrection" against it from holding office.

They contend the former president is ineligible just as if he did not meet the constitutional threshold of being at least 35 years old.

But Trump's lawyers have argued that the provision is vague and unclear and that January 6 does not meet the legal definition of an insurrection.

Even if it did, they argue, that Trump was simply exercising his first amendment and is not liable for what occurred and that the bar on office should not apply to presidents.