Maine secretary of state rules Trump ineligible for state's 2024 primary ballot

The decision can be appealed in state court.

December 28, 2023, 9:36 PM

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has ruled that former President Donald Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 Republican primary ballot.

Bellows, a Democrat, issued her decision on three challenges brought by Maine voters, including three politicians, over the nomination petition of Trump for the GOP primary.

Bellows upheld the two challenges that sought to bar Trump from the ballot based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. She rejected one that hinged on the 22nd Amendment

“I conclude that Mr. Trump's primary petition is invalid,” Bellows wrote in her decision. “Specifically, I find 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.”

Bellows went on to say in her 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. 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 concluded that Trump's "occasional requests that rioters be peaceful and support law enforcement" did not "immunize his actions. 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," her decision read.

In her conclusion, Bellow said she was "mindful" no secretary of state had "deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment."

She continued: "I am also mindful, however, 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 Section 336 challenge, is to ensure that candidates who appear on the primary ballot are qualified for the office they seek."

Bellows suspended "the effect" of her decision until Maine's Superior Court rules on any appeal, given the "compressed timeframe, the novel constitutional questions involved, the importance of this case, and impending ballot preparation deadlines," involved in the case, she wrote.

In a statement immediately following the decision, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said they would "quickly file a legal objection in state court."

He went on to call Bellows a "hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat who has decided to interfere in the presidential election."

The ruling on Thursday evening makes Maine the second state in the nation to disqualify Trump from seeking the GOP presidential nomination under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Colorado is the only other state to rule him off its primary ballot, though the state Supreme Court’s decision has been stayed until Jan. 4, 2024, because the Colorado Republican Party appealed the court's Dec. 19 order to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday night.

Bellows acknowledged an impending Supreme Court ruling and how it could impact her decision in her order Thursday:

"While I am cognizant of the fact that my decision could soon be rendered a nullity by a decision of the United States Supreme Court in Anderson, that possibility does not relieve me of my responsibility to act," Bellows wrote.

Trump is facing more than a dozen tests over his ballot eligibility under the 14th Amendment in various state and federal courts, with challenges or appeals pending in about 15 states. Maine is the first state to allow its secretary of state to rule on a challenge.