April 24, 2024 3:40 pm

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Secretary of State for Maine unilaterally disqualifies Trump from Primary Ballot

Hearing regarding challenges in Maine to President Donald J Trump Primary Nomination Petition on December 15, 2023. | Maine Department of the Secretary of State

AUGUSTA, Maine—The Maine Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows (D), unilaterally ruled on December 28 that the 45th President of the United States and leading GOP Presidential nominee, Donald J Trump, is disqualified from the state’s 2024 Primary Ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Shenna Bellows

“I do not reach this conclusion lightly. 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,” Secretary Bellows wrote in her unilateral decision. “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.”

In a twist reminiscent of the Colorado Court ruling disqualifying Trump from that state’s ballot a week earlier, Maine Secretary of State Bellows in her decision “suspended” the enforcement of her ruling until the courts weigh in or the five-day timeframe to appeal expires.

In a statement on the Maine Secretary of State Ruling, Steven Cheung, Trump Campaign Spokesman wrote:

“The Maine Secretary of State is a former ACLU attorney, a virulent leftist and a hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat who has decided to interfere in the presidential election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden. We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter. Democrats in blue states are recklessly and un-Constitutionally suspending the civil rights of the American voters by attempting to summarily remove President Trump’s name from the ballot. Make no mistake, these partisan election interference efforts are a hostile assault on American democracy. Biden and the Democrats simply do not trust the American voter in a free and fair election and are now relying on the force of government institutions to protect their grip on power.”

In a statement released on X, the Maine GOP Party wrote, “We will be taking this to court and will fight to the Supreme Court if necessary.” The organization shared that it will “use another system — if that’s what it takes to keep a Democrat Hack Secretary of State from infringing on the Rights of Maine voters.”

In researching election law in Maine’s Revised Statutes, the equivalent to the Revised Code of Washington, the Lynnwood Times discovered that following Caucus chaos related to the overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders in 2016, lawmakers adopted presidential primary legislation in 2017 and 2019 requiring only a Primary election system for the nominee. Also, disqualification by the Secretary of State bars a person from being a write-in candidate on the ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Office received three challenges to the nomination of former President Trump, each filed under 21-A of Maine Revised Statutes (MRS) 336 and 337.

Section 336 of Maine’s law refers to the requirement of a signed consent form “that the candidate will accept the nomination of the primary election” that must be accompanied by a completed Presidential Primary Petition of at least 2,000 registered voters. Section 337 lays out the requirements to review and challenge said petitions and consent forms.

First challenger Mary Ann Royal of Winterport alleged that President Trump violated his oath of office because he engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States. Second challenger, Paul Gordon of Portland, Maine, argued that President Trump is barred from office under the Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because he continues to “express” that he won the 2020 Presidential Election.

In the third challenge, Kimberly Rosen a former Republican State Senator from Bucksport, Thomas Saviello, a former Republican State Senator from Wilton and Ethan Strimling, a former Democratic State Senator from Portland collectively contend that Mr. Trump is barred from office because he engaged in insurrection as defined by Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.

A consolidated hearing was held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, December 15 in Augusta that included Secretary Bellows, Trumps attorneys, challengers, and witnesses. The hearing was livestreamed to the Secretary of State’s Office’s YouTube channel and is still available to view online.

A key contention between Bellows and Trump’s attorneys were whether she had the authority to remove Trump from the 2024 Primary Ballot and the requirements of qualification specified on the consent form—see below.

Snapshot of Maine’s consent form requirement of MRS Section 336.3. SOURCE: Maine’s Secretary of State’s Office.

According to MRS Section 336.3, a candidate is required to sign a statement affirming s/he “meets the qualifications of the office the candidate seeks.” The qualifications specified on the consent form reads:

Qualifications of President of the United States (U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1)

  • Be a natural born U.S. Citizen
  • Have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years
  • Be at least 35 years of age

Trump’s attorneys argued that the challenges add a new qualification to the form which is outside the purview of the Secretary of State’s authority and solely rests, based on case law, with the United States Congress. Secretary Bellow disagreed, and in her decision wrote that she has the authority under “Times, Places and Manner” stated in Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

“Maine’s election laws thus contemplate that I review the accuracy of a candidate’s declaration that they must meet the qualification of the office they seek,” Bellows wrote. “I therefore disagree with Mr. Trump’s contention that only Congress can adjudicate the qualifications of a Presidential candidate.”

All parties agreed to dismiss the second challenge claiming Trump cannot seek office for a third Presidential term under the Twenty-Second Amendment based on claim’s Trump made that he won the 2020 Presidential Election.

Gerand Magilocca

For the challenges alleging insurrection, Bellows based her decision primarily on the January 6 Report compiled by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, and expert testimony by American law professor Gerand Magliocca by using his opinion of the definition of an insurrection which he defined as “a public use of violence by a group of people to hinder or prevent the execution of the Constitution.”

During his testimony on December 15, Magliocca agreed with Trump’s attorney that the “any office” statement within Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment is not self-executing, meaning it does not apply to the President of the United States and that the disqualification from holding “any office” only applies to offices under the President.

Although the 45th President of the United States, Donald J Trump, was formally impeached by the 117th Congress on January 13, 2021, for “high crimes and misdemeanors” related to the January 6th Capitol Breach, the Senate acquitted Trump of the impeachment charge on February 13, 2021.

Bellows admitted in her decision that because the Senate acquitted the President she is “obligated to assess the record” before her and “make a determination based on the preponderance of evidence.”

She concluded that the first and third challengers “provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the falsity of Mr. Trump’s declaration that he meets the qualification of the office of the presidency” and found President Trump’s 2024 Primary Ballot Petition “invalid.”

Maine Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows (right) with President Joe Biden (left)

The position of the Secretary of State in Maine is appointed by the state’s legislature and serves 2-year terms for a maximum of four terms. Maine has a Democratic triplex, according to Ballotpedia. In Maine, the Democratic Party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.

Maine’s Primary Election is scheduled for March 5, 2023.

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