Cawthorn sues to stop NC election officials from considering effort to have his name removed from ballot
U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn says running for office is "quintessential First Amendment activity and afforded great protection" in lawsuit.Posted — Updated
U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn has sued North Carolina elections officials, arguing they should not have the ability to remove his name from the ballot in the upcoming 2022 election.
The complaint filed in federal court Monday by the Western North Carolina congressman aims to prevent the state from considering an effort by a group of North Carolina voters challenging his candidacy. The group claims Cawthorn contributed to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, thus disqualifying him from running under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The amendment’s disqualification clause states that no member of Congress shall “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
In his lawsuit, Cawthorn argues the effort to remove him from the ballot violates his First Amendment rights.
“Running for political office is quintessential First Amendment activity and afforded great protection,” Cawthorn said in the lawsuit.
Under state law, the board automatically holds a hearing to consider candidacy challenges that have been filed.
Cawthorn’s federal lawsuit seeks to block the board from considering the matter.
“Rep. Cawthorn vigorously denies that he engaged in ‘insurrection or rebellion’ against the United States, but this litigation is not based in Rep. Cawthorn’s factual defenses,” his lawsuit says. “Instead, this matter is before the Court based upon various constitutional and legal challenges to the North Carolina Challenge Statute itself and its application here.”
Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech For People who is working on the voters’ behalf to prevent Cawthorn’s candidacy, said in a statement: “It is unfortunate that Madison Cawthorn has decided to run to federal court instead of complying with the process before the State Board of Elections.”
Cawthorn filed his lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
“We intend to move to intervene in this federal court case to oppose Cawthorn’s attempted end-run around the laws that the people of North Carolina enacted for addressing candidacy challenges,” Fein said.
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