With just over a week to go before Election Day, a group of voters in Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Northwest Georgia district has renewed its challenge of her candidacy.
The voters claim Greene should be ineligible under the 14th Amendment because they say she was involved with the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in Washington, which they contend amounted to a rebellion against the United States.
Administrative law judge Charles Beaudrot and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger were not convinced by their arguments. Beaudrot ruled that the challengers did not provide sufficient evidence that Greene had any role in the attacks, and Raffensperger, who manages elections in the state, signed off on the opinion.
Free Speech for People, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization representing the challengers, filed an appeal with the Fulton County Superior Court Monday, arguing that the court made several errors in the case.
Typically, when a candidate’s eligibility is challenged in Georgia, it is a question of whether the candidate meets the age or residency requirements to run, and the candidate must simply provide their birth certificate or proof of residency. Since Greene’s case is more complicated, the court ruled that the burden of proof should be on the challengers.
“In the interests of justice, Rep. Greene should not be required to ‘prove a negative’ and affirmatively establish she did not engage in an insurrection,” Beaudrot’s decision reads.
That was a mistake, the challengers argue, because evidence necessary to determine Greene’s eligibility was in her control, but the judge blocked their request for discovery.
The challengers requested documents including Greene’s communications with people under investigation for planning the Jan. 6 riots but were denied on the grounds that it was “impracticable and unrealistic to require Respondent to deliver a significant volume of material prior to the scheduled hearing date.”
The challengers also say Beaudrot did not properly consider statements Greene made prior to taking office. The section of the 14th Amendment they are seeking to invoke bars those who have taken an oath of office before engaging in a rebellion from running again, and the case centered on her activity between being sworn in Jan. 3, 2021, and the riot three days later.
During the April 22 hearing, attorneys submitted video and social media statements made by Greene urging supporters to “flood the Capitol building” and telling an interviewer that “you can’t allow it to just transfer power peacefully like Joe Biden wants and allow him to become our president.”
Greene’s lawyers argued that statements like these were simply heated political rhetoric, and, more importantly, protected speech under the First Amendment, and Beaudrot seemed inclined to agree. The challengers say inflammatory statements made before taking office provide context that shows she was giving marching orders to those who illegally entered the Capitol.
Finally, they argued that the judge set too high a bar in defining what it means to engage in an insurrection. Beaudrot concluded that Greene did not take part in the violence or provide tactical planning.
“Even if Greene did not learn about any plan to unlawfully challenge the election and attack the Capitol until she voiced her support for it on Jan. 5, 2021, her encouragement would still constitute ‘voluntary aiding’ and therefore engaging in insurrection,” the notice of appeal reads. “Similarly, even if the insurrectionist plan was not hatched until Jan. 5, shortly before Greene urged her support, that too would amount to ‘voluntary aiding’ and therefore engaging in insurrection.”
Greene’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but she has previously characterized the lawsuit as a partisan effort to expel an outspoken conservative and said that allowing judges rather than voters to decide who should serve could set a dangerous precedent. Her lawyers said she was as much a victim of the Jan. 6 violence as any other member of Congress and produced a statement of her calling for calm as she took refuge in the Capitol with her colleagues.
The state’s primary elections are set for May 24, with early voting underway now. Greene’s name appears on ballots in her district. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.
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