Maine Wire | by Libby Palanza | December 28, 2023
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has blocked former President Donald Trump from appearing on Maine’s primary ballot next year.
Secretary Bellows argues in her decision that former President Trump engaged in insurrection on January 6, 2021 and is thereby disqualified from serving as President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.
On these grounds, the Secretary concluded that the former president’s “primary petition is invalid,” consequently preventing him from appearing on the 2024 Republican presidential primary ballot in Maine.
“Specifically, the Secretary ruled that the declaration on his candidate consent form is false because he is not qualified to hold the office of the President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” a press release from the Secretary of State’s Office said.
Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment reads:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
“I conclude,” Bellows wrote in her official decision, “that the record establishes that Mr. Trump, over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power.”
Trump has never been convicted by a U.S. court or the U.S. Senate for any crime related to “insurrection.”
“I likewise conclude that Mr. Trump was aware of the likelihood for violence and at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it,” Bellows continued..
“Mr. Trump’s occasional requests that rioters be peaceful and support law enforcement do not immunize his actions,” Bellows argued. “A brief call to obey the law does not erase conduct over the course of months, culminating in his speech on the Ellipse.”
“The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr. Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multi-month effort to delegitimize a democratic election, and then chose to light a match,” Bellows concluded.
Click Here to Read the Maine Wire’s Coverage of the Eight Hour Hearing in Which Both the Challengers and Former President Trump’s Legal Team Presented Their Arguments and Evidence to the Secretary of State
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Bellows wrote in her decision. “I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“I am also mindful, however,” she continued, “that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
“The oath I swore to uphold the Constitution comes first above all, and my duty under Maine’s election laws, when presented with a [challenge], is to ensure that candidates who appear on the primary ballot are qualified for the office they seek,” Bellows said.
“The events of January 6, 2021 were unprecedented and tragic,” the Secretary wrote. “They were an attack not only upon the Capitol and government officials, but also an attack on the rule of law.”
“The evidence here demonstrates that they occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing President,” she concluded. “The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government, and [state law] requires me to act in response.”
Prior to the release of Bellows’ decision, the former president called upon the Secretary to recuse herself from rendering a verdict on the challenges on account of several social media posts she has made in the past concerning the events that transpired on January 6, 2021.
In one of these posts, Bellows describes the incident that day as an “insurrection” and “an unlawful attempt to overthrow the results of a free and fair election.”
“Today 57 Senators including King & Collins found Trump guilty,” the post continued. “That’s short of impeachment but nevertheless an indictment. The insurrectionists failed, and democracy prevailed.”
In another post, Bellows wrote that “one year after the violent insurrection, it’s important to do all we can to safeguard our elections.”
“President Trump requests that the Secretary disqualify herself from this matter because she has already concluded that President Trump engaged in insurrection — a determination that she made well before the submission of evidence or argument in this current matter,” attorneys for Trump stated in a letter.
“Because the Secretary has exhibited a personal bias in this matter, she should disqualify herself from further proceedings,” the letter said.
The decision to bar Trump from Maine’s ballot comes immediately after the Colorado Republican Party filed a writ of certiorari asking the United States Supreme Court to review the ruling issued earlier this month by the Colorado Supreme Court blocking the former president from appearing on their primary ballot.
Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot in 2024, marking the first time in United States history that Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment — added to the Constitution during the Civil War era — has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate.
As a result of this appeal, however, this decision has been stayed — meaning that the former president’s name will appear on the state’s primary ballot next year unless the U.S. Supreme Court directly orders them to remove it at a later date.
Similarly, Bellows “has suspended the effect of her decision until the Superior Court rules on any appeal, or the time to appeal has expired.”
The former president now has five days to appeal the Secretary’s decision by “commencing an action” in Superior Court.