A group of Georgia voters on Thursday asked state officials to block Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from running for re-election, alleging she is unfit for office because of her support of rioters who attacked the United States Capitol.
In a legal challenge filed with the Georgia secretary of state, the voters claim Greene has violated a provision of the US Constitution known as the “Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause”.
The clause, passed after the 19th-century American 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 had 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.
Greene’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request by the Reuters news service for comment.
Greene has downplayed and justified the January 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 claiming his election defeat was a result of widespread fraud.
“January 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 scepticism 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 re-elected.”
Earlier this year, social media platform Twitter said it had permanently suspended Greene’s personal account for violating its misinformation policy by spreading false claims about COVID-19.
After the January 6 riot at the Capitol, Democrats in the House of Representatives sharply rebuked the first-year lawmaker by voting to strip her of committee assignments for “hostile” social media posts that included a suggestion Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be executed.
Some Democrats had called for her removal from Congress for her previous endorsement of QAnon conspiracy theories that mass shootings at schools were “false flag” events and calling for violence against Democratic politicians. But Democrats lack the votes that would be necessary to reach the two-thirds majority required to remove her.
In 2021, Democrats in the House impeached Trump for inciting the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, but the former president was acquitted by Republicans in the Senate.