WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group of Georgia voters on Thursday asked state officials to block Republican U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from running for reelection, alleging she is unfit for office because of her support of rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol.
In a legal challenge filed with the Georgia Secretary of State, the voters claim Greene has violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution known as the “Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause.”
The clause, passed after the 19th-century U.S. Civil War, prohibits politicians from running for Congress if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, or “given aid or comfort” to the nation’s enemies.
The Georgia voters are represented by Free Speech For People, a Texas-based advocacy group that brought a similar challenge to Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn’s qualifications for office.
A federal judge dismissed the Cawthorn case on March 4, but Free Speech for People has urged North Carolina officials to appeal that ruling, and has filed its own emergency appeal.
Greene said in a statement that she opposes all forms of political violence.
“I’ve never encouraged political violence and never will,” she said.
Greene has downplayed and justified the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, in which supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, battling with police and sending lawmakers running for their lives after a fiery speech by Trump near the White House repeated his false claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.
“Jan. 6 was just a riot at the Capitol and if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants,” Greene said during a radio program in October.
The legal challenge will be heard by an administrative law judge. Greene could also ask a federal judge to step in and block the challenge.
“After taking the oath to defend and protect the Constitution, before, on, and after Jan. 6, 2021, Greene voluntarily aided and engaged in an insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power,” the lawsuit states.
Some legal experts have expressed skepticism of Free Speech for People’s arguments.
Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa, said it would be unconstitutional for Georgia election officials to take Greene off the ballot. The Constitution does not give states the power to assess a congressional candidate’s eligibility for office, reserving that power for Congress, he said.
“Georgia has no jurisdiction to assess a congressional candidate’s eligibility today,” Muller said in an email. “Even if Ms. Greene were an insurrectionist, Congress has the authority to lift that bar, which it could do at any time before she presents her credentials to Congress next year if she were reelected.”
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis)