Indiana officials rejected on Friday an attempt to kick Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks off the ballot over claims that he violated the Constitution by allegedly supporting last year’s U.S. Capitol insurrection.
The state election commission, which is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, voted unanimously against the challenge filed by a long-shot Democratic candidate for Banks’ northeastern Indiana district.
An attorney for Banks argued that the allegations were baseless and that removing Banks from the ballot would deprive his supporters of their preferred representative in Congress.
“Congressman Banks has publicly commented that he did not support that conduct, nor did he engage in it, and he has also called for the prosecution of unlawful conduct that occurred that day,” attorney Paul Mullins said.
Democrat Aaron Calkins, of Fort Wayne, told the commission he believed Banks violated the 14th Amendment’s ban on members of Congress engaging in “insurrection or rebellion” by backing the efforts of then-President Donald Trump to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
Banks was rejected last year by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the top Republican for the committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, which was followed by House GOP leadership boycotting the panel.
A similar challenge on 14th Amendment grounds is pending against North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn.
Banks, who is seeking reelection from a heavily Republican district he first won in 2016, criticized the ballot challenge as a “bogus theory” against Republicans like him who voted in the hours after the siege to overturn Biden’s Electoral College win, which has been upheld by a succession of judges and state election officials
“Many Democrats in Washington hope to weaponize the 14th amendment to disenfranchise President Trump’s 74 million voters,” Banks said in a statement. “I hope they watched today’s unanimous decision.”
Paul Okeson, the Indiana commission’s Republican chairman, said the Capitol riot was a “regrettable mark in history” but that there was no evidence that Banks was guilty of taking part in an insurrection.
The Indiana commission also voted to remove one Republican and two Democratic candidates from the May primary ballot for U.S. Senate for failing to meet the state requirement for filing petitions signed by at least 500 registered voters from all nine congressional districts by the Feb. 4 deadline.
The decision leaves Republican Sen. Todd Young and Hammond’s Democratic mayor, Thomas McDermott Jr., running unopposed for their parties’ Senate nominations for the November election.
The commission’s decision removed Danny Niederberger, an accountant from Westfield, from the Republican ballot, and Haneefah Khaaliq, the executive director of Gary’s Human Relations Commission, and Indianapolis psychologist Valerie McCray from the Democratic ballot.
All three raised objections to Indiana’s signature requirement process, but commission members said they had no choice other than to enforce the state law.
Khaaliq and McCray, who are Black women, said they spent months gathering petition signatures only to have their candidacy filings for the Democratic nomination be challenged by a supporter of McDermott, a white man.
“I’ve heard wonderful things about you and I think we need more women, strong women to do this,” Democratic commission member Karen Celestino-Horseman told Khaaliq. “But as an officer of the court and a member of this body, I’ve taken an oath that I have to uphold the law.”