A group of North Carolina voters have filed a legal challenge against U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn’s 2022 candidacy. The challenge, filed before the North Carolina State Board of Elections, alleges that Cawthorn is constitutionally disqualified from public office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution based on reasonable suspicion that he helped facilitate the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment (a Reconstructionist Amendment, adopted in 1868), known as the Disqualification Clause, provides:
“No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress. . . who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
The purpose of the Disqualification Clause, passed in the wake of the Civil War, is not to punish the oath breaker but rather to protect the country. No criminal conviction or prior adjudication is required under the Disqualification Clause, although Cawthorn would be able to seek judicial review in the event it is decided he is not allowed to hold office.
“The coordinated and violent January 6 attack on the United States Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential vote was an insurrection against the United States. The Constitution disqualifies from public office any elected officials who aided that insurrection,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People. “As set forth in our complaint, the publicly available evidence, including Representative Cawthorn’s own statements and reports that he or his office coordinated with the January 6 organizers, establish reasonable suspicion that Representative Cawthorn aided the insurrection, thereby disqualifying him from federal office. We look forward to asking him about his involvement under oath.”
Under North Carolina’s candidacy challenge statute, any registered voter in his district may challenge his candidacy based on “reasonable suspicion or belief” that he “does not meet the constitutional or statutory qualifications for the office.” Once a challenge is filed, the burden of proof shifts to the candidate, who “must show by a preponderance of the evidence . . . that he or she is qualified to be a candidate for the office.” The statute authorizes “depositions prior to the hearing, if requested by the challenger,” and “subpoenas for witnesses or documents . . . including a subpoena of the candidate.”
The challengers intend to depose Cawthorn and members of his staff – something that the U.S. House January 6 Select Committee has not yet done.
The challenge will first be heard by a multi-county panel to be appointed by the North Carolina State Board of Elections. After the hearing, the panel will issue written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Its decision can be appealed by either side to the State Board, and the State Board’s decision can be appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
“Claiming to be fighting a battle for our Constitution, Cawthorn has engaged in blatant acts of insurrection,” said John R. Wallace of the law firm Wallace & Nordan. “He must be held accountable for his actions. which have threatened our democracy. Wisely, the Constitution provides a remedy for our protection. We seek here the imposition of that remedy.”
“This challenge is all about enforcing the Constitution of the United States,” said Robert F. Orr, a former Republican Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. “The Constitution mandates that those who take the oath to support the Constitution and then violate that oath shall be disqualified from holding office.”
Currently, Cawthorn represents North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, but for the 2022 election, he filed a notice of candidacy for the redrawn 13th Congressional District. On December 8, 2021, the North Carolina Supreme Court ordered the state to delay its primary from March to May. A panel of judges ruled March 11 the elections may proceed with the districts drawn in their current manner.
Dr. Jay Walsh and Claude Boisson, two of the eleven challengers bringing this matter before the North Carolina State Board of Elections, offered details about their decision to join this action:
“I am a semi-retired psychiatrist and registered independent residing in Morganton, North Carolina,” Walsh explained. “As a Navy veteran, I pledged to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ Members of Congress take the same oath. While watching the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, I was stunned by the fact that some of our representatives are subverting the very democracy they swore to protect. Madison Cawthorn’s actions are damaging our country and eroding our freedoms. As an insurrectionist, he should not be on the ballot.”
“I am a resident of Shelby,” Boisson offered. “I was born in Haiti but have been a US citizen and voter since 1979. As I watched the Capitol insurrection, I realized that I’ve seen this movie before. As a child, I saw “Papa Doc” Duvalier take control of Haiti and rule as a dictator. It was a terrible time. I joined this action because I want to do everything I can to prevent authoritarians from taking power here.”
Read this article in its entirety from our media partner Free Press For People.