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Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, in Augusta last January, acknowledged in her ruling Thursday that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. AP Photo

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows issued a ruling Thursday night barring former President Donald Trump from appearing on Maine’s March 5, 2024, presidential primary ballot.

Bellows, a Democrat, became the first state election official to conclude that Trump’s primary petition is invalid, ruling that the Republican is not qualified to hold the office of the president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Trump’s campaign says it will challenge her ruling in state court.

Her decision makes Maine just the second state in the country to bar Trump from the ballot. Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court booted Trump from the ballot under the same Civil War-era provision of the Constitution. It is likely the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say on whether Trump appears on the ballot in Maine and other states.

“I conclude … 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,” Bellows said in the statement she issued Thursday night. “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.

“…  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.”



Trump’s campaign condemned Bellows’ ruling and said it would quickly file an appeal in state court challenging it.

“The Maine secretary of state is a former ACLU attorney, a virulent leftist and a hyper-partisan (President) Biden-supporting Democrat who has decided to interfere in the presidential election on behalf of crooked Joe Biden,” Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in an email. “We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter.

“… 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.”

Bellows said she did not take her decision lightly.

“I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.

“… The events of January 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, and Section 336 requires me to act in response.”


Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, the Republican leader of the Maine House, denounced Bellows’ ruling.


“This is a sham decision that mimics third world dictatorships,” Faulkingham said in a statement emailed Thursday night. “It will not stand legal scrutiny. People have a right to choose their leaders devoid of mindless decisions by partisan hacks.”

Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook, also took Bellows to task.

“Maine voters deserve a primary process that allows for each party to decide its own candidates,” he said in an email late Thursday. “Tonight’s decision not only undermines our democracy but also underscores the importance of legislative control, which determines who serves as our secretary of state.”

Joel Stetkis, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, slammed Bellows’ ruling in a statement late Thursday. He called her decision an effort to subvert democracy.


“Rest assured we’ll be fighting this in court – all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary,” Stetkis said.

Bellows’ ruling came nearly two weeks after a hearing was held in Augusta to review three challenges to Trump’s name appearing on the presidential primary ballot.

Trump’s attorneys subsequently filed objections to those challenges. They will now have five days to appeal her decision to a higher court. Bellows said she will suspend the effect of her decision until there is a ruling on any appeal, or the time to appeal has expired.

Bellows received the challenges from attorney Benjamin Gaines, who is representing three former state lawmakers including Republican Kimberley Rosen, independent Thomas Saviello, and Democrat Ethan Strimling, who is Portland’s former mayor. Other challenges were filed separately by Mary Anne Royal, of Winterport, and Paul Gordon, of Portland.

Bellows rejected Gordon’s challenge, which argued that the 22nd Amendment bars a person from running for president for more than two terms. Gordon, a lawyer, reasoned that since Trump claims he won the 2020 presidency, he could not seek a third term in 2024.

But the remaining two challenges contend that Trump should be disqualified from participating in the primary because he played a role in inciting the Jan.6, 2021, rioting in the nation’s capitol.



Trump’s attorneys have argued Bellows does not have the authority to disqualify Trump from the ballot and accused her of being biased against the former president.

In a court filing Wednesday, attorneys for the former president – Benjamin Hartwell of Portland and Scott Gessler of Colorado – said past statements that Bellows made on social media demonstrate she already had decided that Trump engaged in insurrection. Trump’s legal team asked that Bellows disqualify herself from making the decision and that she appoint an “unbiased, impartial hearing officer” to rule on the matter.

In a Feb. 13, 2021, statement on Twitter, now known as X, Bellows said that, “The Jan. 6 insurrection was an unlawful attempt to overthrow the results of a free and fair election. Today 57 Senators including (Angus) King & (Susan) Collins found Trump guilty. That’s short of impeachment but nevertheless an indictment. The insurrectionists failed, and democracy prevailed.”

Bellows responded in her statement to accusations of bias, characterizing the filing as being untimely. “Had the motion been timely, I would have determined that I could preside over this matter impartially and without bias.”

Strimling, Saviello and Rosen cited the 14th Amendment in a letter to Bellows written by Gaines, saying Trump engaged in insurrection, contrary to his oath to support the Constitution, and is now ineligible to hold office. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits people from holding office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the (Constitution), or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”


The trio praised Bellows’ ruling in a statement Thursday night.

“Secretary Bellows showed great courage in her ruling, and we look forward to helping her defend her judicious and correct decision in court. No official is above the law or our constitution, and today’s ruling reaffirms this most important of American principles,” they said.


The Maine filings come as the Republican front-runner’s place on ballots is being challenged across the country. Challenges have been filed in at least 32 states, according to the blog Lawfare, which is tracking such efforts. It does not list any successful challenges to date.

Earlier this week, Michigan’s top court denied a 14th Amendment challenge. Similar lawsuits have been rejected in other states, including Minnesota.

But on Dec. 19, the Colorado Supreme Court held that Trump is “disqualified from holding the office of President under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.” As a result, the court ruled Trump cannot be listed on the Republican presidential primary ballot in the state.

The Colorado Supreme Court stayed the ruling until Jan. 4, 2024 – the day before Colorado’s presidential primary ballot must be certified – pending any review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Thursday, Colorado’s secretary of state, announced that Trump will be included as a candidate on the state’s primary ballot unless the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the case or upholds the state supreme court’s ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was added after the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from returning to government. It says that anyone who swore an oath to support the Constitution and then engaged in insurrection against it cannot hold government office.

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