The North Carolina State Board of Elections is asserting a right to keep far-right Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who’s currently being scrutinized over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, off the ballot ahead of the 2022 midterms if it so chooses.
On Monday, the board filed a 31-page response in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to Cawthorn’s lawsuit attempting to shut down a group of North Carolina voters who are pushing to get him disqualified from running for reelection. The voters, backed by the advocacy organization Free Speech For People, argue that the GOP lawmaker violated Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, the constitutional clause that bars individuals who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from entering office.
The elections board requested the court dismiss Cawthorn’s motion, arguing that pre-election challenges “serve the critical purpose of ensuring that only qualified candidates appear on the ballot and are voted on by the electorate, while promoting public confidence in the electoral system.”
The board noted that states have “long enforced age and residency requirements, without question and with very few if any legal challenges.”
“The State has the same authority to police which candidates should or should not be disqualified per Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the board continued.
The Republican lawmaker is getting ahead of himself by claiming injury before the board has even reviewed the lawyers’ candidate challenge, much less disqualified him, the filing argued, so he hasn’t actually been deprived of anything.
The board stated that it had put a pause on candidate challenges last month due to the ongoing legal battle over North Carolina’s GOP-drawn gerrymandered district map. The outcome of that fight and how it may impact Cawthorn’s district could determine whether the Republican decides to run in that district at all, for example.
“The stay of candidate challenges will be lifted when redistricting is resolved,” the board said.
The legal challenge against Cawthorn’s candidacy centers on the lawmaker’s part in fueling the pro-Trump Capitol attack last year: He spoke at the infamous rally at the Ellipse that preceded the attack, was reportedly in contact with the organizers of that rally and loudly pushed the Big Lie about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Among other defenses, Cawthorn’s lawyer, in an eyebrow-raising statement, invoked a nineteenth century congressional act passed after the Fourteenth Amendment that granted amnesty to Confederate soldiers.
Read the board’s filing below: