A group of North Carolina voters told state officials Monday that they want Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn to be disqualified as a candidate for Congress, citing his involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Cawthorn questioned the results of the presidential election during the Save America Rally before the Capitol riot later that day, killing five people.
At the rally, Cawthorn made unsubstantiated claims that Donald Trump’s election was stolen and was charged with setting fire to the crowd, many of which later stormed the Capitol.
Attorneys filed the challenge on behalf of eleven voters with the North Carolina Electoral Committee, which oversees a process of assessing candidates’ qualifications.
Voters say Cawthorn, who officially ran as a candidate last month, cannot run for failing to adhere to a constitutional amendment ratified shortly after the Civil War.
The 1868 amendment states that no one may serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress in support of the United States Constitution, is alleged to have committed an uprising or rebellion against it.”
The written solicitation states that the January 6 events “amounted to a riot,” and that Cawthorn’s speech at the rally in support of Trump, his other comments and information in published reports convey a “reasonable suspicion or belief” that he helped to ease the uprising and is therefore disqualified.
“Challengers have reasonable suspicions that MP Cawthorn was involved in efforts to intimidate Congress and the Vice-President into rejecting valid votes and undermining the essential constitutional function of an orderly and peaceful transfer of power,” the complaint read.
The complaint went on to detail how Cawthorn allegedly sponsored the demonstration ahead of time, including his tweet: “The future of this republic depends on the actions of some lonely people … It is time to fight.” The complaint also includes reports of a meeting from Cawthorn with planners of the January 6 demonstration and possibly the attack on the Capitol.
Cawthorn, 26, became the youngest member of Congress after his November 2020 election and has become a social media favorite of Trump supporters. He plans to run in a new district that appears friendlier to Republicans. He formally submitted candidacy papers shortly before filing was suspended while reassignment proceedings are pending.
Last September, Cawthorn warned the North Carolina of potential “bloodshed” in future elections that he claims could “continue to be stolen” and asked if Biden was “dutifully elected”. He advised them to start ammunition for what he said was likely America-versus-American “bloodshed” over poor election results.
“When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes your duty,” he said, describing the rioters arrested during the January 6 riot as “political prisoners.” He said “we are actively working” on plans for a similar protest in Washington.
Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group that supports the Cawthorn challenge, told the Guardian that the complaint was “the first legal disqualification challenge since then Reconstruction after the civil war ”. in the 19th century.”
He said, “It establishes a line that says, just like the authors of the 14.”
Fein said the challenge was the first of many against members of Congress associated with the insurrection. Free speech for people and the Our Revolution group announced last week that they would urge state administrators to ban Trump and members of Congress from future elections.
He said, “It’s not just about the district’s voters. The uprising threatens the entire democratic system of our country, and the uprising of insurgents from every state into the halls of Congress threatens the entire country. “
The challenge calls on the board to form a five-member panel from counties within the proposed 13th ward to hear the challenge. The decision of the committee can be appealed to the state executive board and later to the court.
The challengers also asked the board of directors to swear Cawthorn on oath prior to the regional body meeting and to summon him and others for documents.
John Wallace, a longtime North Carolina democratic attorney who also filed the lawsuit, told the Guardian, “Rep. Cawthorn’s disqualification should certainly deter others who might try to obstruct or defeat our democratic processes.”
Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball said, “Over 245,000 patriots from western North Carolina have elected Congressman Cawthorn to serve them in Washington,” a nod to his November 2020 victory in the current 11th district.
“A dozen activists who weirdly misinterpret and twist the 14th Amendment for political reasons are not now going to distract him from this service,” wrote Ball.