Maine’s top election official has removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 primary ballot, in a surprising decision based on the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”
The decision makes Maine the second state to disqualify Trump from office, after the Colorado Supreme Court handed down its own stunning ruling that removed him from the ballot earlier this month. The development is a significant victory for Trump’s critics, who say they’re trying to enforce a constitutional provision that was designed to protect the country from anti-democratic insurrectionists.
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, issued the decision Thursday after presiding over an administrative hearing earlier this month about Trump’s eligibility for office. A bipartisan group of former state lawmakers filed the challenge against Trump.
Bellows’ decision can be appealed in state court, and it’s all but assured that Trump’s side will challenge this outcome.
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Bellows wrote. “Democracy is sacred … 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, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
Most legal experts believe the US Supreme Court will settle the issue for the entire country.
Still, the Maine decision builds on the momentum that Trump’s critics have claimed after the Colorado ruling. Before Colorado, several other states, like Michigan and Minnesota, rejected similar efforts.
Ratified after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment says American officials who “engage in” insurrection can’t hold future office. But the provision is vague and doesn’t say how the ban should be enforced.
Trump denies wrongdoing regarding January 6, 2021, and says the legal challenges are meritless.
In her decision, Bellows concluded that she has a legal obligation to adhere to the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist ban and remove Trump from the primary ballot.
“The oath I swore to uphold the Constitution comes first above all, and my duty under Maine’s election laws … is to ensure that candidates who appear on the primary ballot are qualified for the office they seek,” she said.
Explaining her reasoning, Bellows wrote that the challengers presented compelling evidence that the January 6 insurrection “occurred at the behest of” Trump – and that the US Constitution “does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government.”
“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,” Bellows wrote. “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.”
This story has been updated with additional reporting.