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State Board Asserts Right to Decide If Cawthorn Is Eligible to Run in Midterms

The Constitution bars people from running for office if they’ve “engaged in insurrection” against the United States.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn is seen in the U.S. Capitol on November 18, 2021.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has asserted that it has the right to determine whether Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina) is disqualified from running for office based on his role in the plot to overturn the 2020 election.

A group of 11 state residents who reside in North Carolina’s newly-created 13th congressional district, where Cawthorn intends to run, filed a complaint with the state elections board last month. The complaint contends that Cawthorn is ineligible to compete in this year’s midterm races and cites the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bars any individual who has taken an oath as a member of the U.S. Congress from serving if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the country.

Cawthorn’s involvement in the attempted overthrow of the 2020 presidential election fits those parameters, the 11 residents said.

After Trump lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, Cawthorn attended dozens of meetings with members of the Trump administration and other lawmakers, discussing ways that the then-outgoing president could overturn the results. Cawthorn also spoke at a rally outside the White House on January 6, 2021, directly before the attack on the U.S. Capitol building; in his speech, he urged Trump loyalists to “lightly threaten” lawmakers and to demand that they back so-called “election integrity.”

“Say [to members of Congress certifying the election results], ‘if you don’t support election integrity, I’m coming after you. Madison Cawthorn’s coming after you. Everybody’s coming after you,'” Cawthorn told Trump loyalists briefly before they breached the Capitol building.

After the complaint from North Carolina residents was submitted to the state elections board, Cawthorn sued the panel, alleging that they did not have the authority to weigh in on the issue and that doing so would violate his First Amendment rights.

On Monday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections responded to Cawthorn’s complaint, asserting that they had the ability to rule on the matter.

The panel did not indicate how it planned to rule, but noted that it had the right to decide whether or not Cawthorn is eligible to run for office based on the 14th Amendment’s parameters. Cawthorn’s claims of “burden” were “dubious,” the panel said, and were ultimately “outweighed by the interest of the state and its people.”

If the residents’ challenge moves forward, it could mean that Cawthorn will have to testify under oath before the state board to prove that he wasn’t “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” despite his role in the plot to overturn the 2020 election.

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