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Trump v. Bellows: Maine’s election ballot conflict

Nearly a month has passed since Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, Maine’s head election official, issued a controversial decision that would effectively disqualify Donald Trump from the state’s GOP primary ballot. Bellows, a Democrat appointed to serve as Maine’s 50th Secretary of State by the Maine Legislature in December of 2020, has continued to face criticism from many within and beyond the state’s borders, along with calls for her removal from office led by the Maine Republican Party.

In issuing her decision, Bellows cited the insurrection clause of the U.S. Constitution found in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has been found to have “engaged in insurrection from holding office.” She has also stated that it was her duty under state law to issue a decision on this matter after hearing various challenges from Maine residents concerning Trump’s ballot eligibility.

“The events of Jan. 6, 2021, were unprecedented and tragic. 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. The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government,” the Secretary wrote in her decision. Bellows also concluded that she would suspend her official decision until the Maine Superior Court ruled on any appeal that might be filed in response.

Since the news of Trump’s disqualification from Maine’s ballot was first released, Maine’s Superior Court has issued its intent to defer ruling on the matter. They’re waiting until the U.S. Supreme Court closes its current case with Colorado, the first state to ban the former President from its own ballot in December using a similar legal argument concerning the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Trump’s legal team first appealed Bellows’ initial decision and is now in favor of pausing proceedings until the U.S. Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of disqualifying him from state ballots.

Other states have floated the idea of following in the footsteps of Maine and Colorado. However, no official decisions have been released at this time. On Jan. 22, the Massachusetts State Ballot Law Commission dismissed a challenge that similarly cited the 14th Amendment as a reason to remove Trump. The commission determined that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the matter. The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for Colorado’s case (Trump v. Anderson) on Feb. 8. This shortened time frame has led to reports that a decision could be made before Super Tuesday on March 5.

In the most recent news, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court dismissed an appeal by Secretary Bellows on Jan. 25, affirming the Superior Court’s ruling to defer a decision until the Colorado case comes to a close.

The highest court in Maine stated, “The Secretary of State suggests that there is irreparable harm because a delay in certainty about whether Trump’s name should appear on the primary ballot will result in voter confusion. This uncertainty is, however, precisely what guides our decision not to undertake immediate appellate review in this particular case.”

In light of this ruling, Mainers can now expect to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments for the Colorado case and released its decision before learning the fate of Donald Trump’s contested appearance.

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