By Aamer Madhani, Melanie Eversley and Rick Jervis, usatoday.com
A judge will hear arguments on Friday from an Illinois voter alleging that Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz is not a “natural-born citizen” and should be disqualified for the party’s nomination.
Lawrence Joyce, an Illinois voter who has objected to Cruz’s placement on the Illinois primary ballot next month, will have his case heard in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago. Joyce’s previous objection, made to the state’s Board of Elections, was dismissed on February 1. He appealed the decision and was granted a hearing for Friday before Judge Maureen Ward Kirby.
Joyce challenges Cruz’s right to be president in the wake of questions put forth by GOP rival Donald Trump about being born in Canada. Cruz maintains he is a natural-born citizen since his mother is American-born.
“What I fear is that Ted Cruz becomes the nominee, come September, Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida will go forward with his threats and probably several other Democrats will file suit to prevent Ted Cruz from being on the ballot,” Joyce, a pharmacist and attorney from Poplar Grove, Ill, told USA TODAY.
Grayson, a Democrat, has told reporters that he will file a lawsuit contesting Cruz’s citizenship if the senator from Texas wins the GOP nomination.
“What Democrats will do at that point is cherry pick which county courthouse they are going to show up in order to file these petitions,” Joyce said. “And at that point, I fear they’ll get a string of victories in the lower courts and the funding for Ted Cruz would dry up, his numbers would plummet in the polls, he may be forced to give up the nomination.”
Joyce, who said he is backing Republican contender Ben Carson, said he has not spoken to the Trump campaign. But Joyce did say he raised the issue with the Carson campaign, which he said was uninterested in pursuing the matter.
The Illinois man said he was hesitant to file the lawsuit out of concern that getting involved in such a high profile case could be detrimental to his own law practice.
“I tried to talk myself out of it and was unable to do so,” Joyce said. “It’s plain as day that Ted Cruz is not a natural born citizen of the United States.”
Cruz, at a CNN-hosted town hall meeting Wednesday night, defended his citizenship and right to run, saying he was born in Canada to a U.S. citizen, making him an automatic U.S citizen. His mother was born in Wilmington, Del., Cruz said.
“I never breathed a breath of air on this planet when I was not a U.S. citizen,” he said. “It was the act of being born that made me a U.S. citizen.”
He added: “There will be some who try to work political mischief on it, but as a legal matter, this is clear and straightforward.”
Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said Thursday night he had no comment about the lawsuit. The Trump campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
A federal lawsuit was filed in Texas last month asking for a determination of Cruz’s eligibility to run. And voters in New York, who raised similar concerns about Cruz’s citizenship, on Thursday filed a challenge with the state Board of Election challenging the senator’s eligibility to be on the ballot.
Sanford Levinson, constitutional law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said Joyce would have to prove standing – or why Cruz’s potential ineligibility affects him specifically – for the judge to proceed with the case.
Even if the judge declares Cruz to be ineligible to run, the GOP candidate’s campaign would undoubtedly file an appeal, potentially tying the case up for months, he said.
It’s surprising that a lower court would even agree to hear the case, which is entangled in broader constitutional issues, Sanford said.
“I’d be very, very surprised if [the judge] were to say he’s ineligible,” he said. “At that point, all hell would break loose.”