Election 2024 Trump Insurrection Amendment

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally last month in Reno, Nev. Godofredo A. Vásquez/Associated Press

Ballots soon will be available for Maine’s presidential primary in March, even as many questions remain about whether former President Donald Trump’s name will be on them, who will decide and what it all means for the general election in November.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows ruled that Trump is ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but Trump’s campaign appealed her decision to the Maine Superior Court. The U.S. Supreme Court also is taking up a similar case out of Colorado.

The Maine case could see major developments soon. Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy was expected to rule on Trump’s appeal by Jan. 17 , but his campaign requested that Murphy pause the appeal to let the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.

State officials and courts in Maine – and in many other states where challenges and lawsuits have been filed – are busy sorting out what happens next. But the future is anything but clear because so many of the circumstances and legal issues are unprecedented.

Here are some things to know about the case in Maine.

What happens next in the Maine case?


The timeline in Maine law says the Maine Superior Court has 20 days to rule on an appeal of the secretary of state’s decision on a ballot challenge and Murphy had been expected to rule on Trump’s appeal by Jan. 17.

But on Monday, Trump’s legal team filed a request that she pause the appeal while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case out of Colorado. Bellows has argued against it, saying the legal deadline is clear.

It’s not known when Murphy will decide on the request for a delay.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows outside the State House complex Dec. 29 in Augusta. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Any ruling by Murphy on ballot eligibility is then likely to be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and then, potentially, to the U.S. Supreme Court – assuming the nation’s highest court hasn’t already resolved the issues.

Who is the judge considering Trump’s appeal?

Murphy is a registered Democrat who was appointed to the Superior Court by former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, in 2007 and reappointed by former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, in 2015.


She has presided over a number of high-profile cases, both criminal and civil.

In September, she rejected a settlement in a class-action lawsuit claiming Maine has failed its constitutional duty to provide legal representation to the poor, saying the deal wasn’t in the best interest of indigent clients.

In April 2018, she ruled in favor of moving forward with ranked-choice voting after the system was challenged, saying a change so soon before the June primaries would harm the election.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta in Jan. 2023. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

And in June 2018, Murphy ruled that the LePage administration had to comply with a voter-approved law expanding Medicaid eligibility.

Will a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Trump’s disqualification in Colorado impact the outcome in Maine? 

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Feb. 8 in Trump’s appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling barring him from the ballot on the grounds that he engaged in insurrection in violation of the 14th Amendment.


Bellows cited the same provision in her Maine ruling, so it’s widely expected that whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides also would apply here.

But there is a chance the nation’s high court could issue a narrow ruling based on facets of the case specific to Colorado, such as Trump’s claim that the court there didn’t follow state statutes governing presidential elections.

Derek Muller, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, expects the court is more likely to rule on larger questions.

“I think the more likely outcome is (the Supreme Court) took the case … to address the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment claim,” Muller said. “And as a result, whatever it holds interpreting federal law and applying it to Jan. 6 and Trump’s candidacy would be binding precedent on the rest of the states and what they choose to do, and it would certainly affect what’s happening in Maine.”

But it’s also possible the decision is narrower and could leave unanswered questions and the possibility of future litigation.

“It really depends on how the court decides the case,” said Dmitry Bam, a professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law.


He also expects that the Supreme Court will look at the more substantive questions about Section 3, but believes the justices will avoid making a determination on whether Trump engaged in insurrection.

“I don’t think the justices will want to say, ‘This is an insurrection as a matter of law,’ ” he said. “It’s a lot easier to say, for example, Section 3 only applies to holding office, not running for office, and so he can run for office now and if he wins, only at that point would we decide he’s ineligible.”

It remains to be seen exactly what the next steps would be in the Maine case after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Maine Attorney General said there aren’t clear answers as to what would happen procedurally if the Supreme Court rules while the case is pending in a Maine court. Would the Superior Court then issue its own ruling based on the higher court’s guidance?

“All of these things will depend on the exact rulings and what they say,” Danna Hayes said.

If ballots get printed in the meantime, will Trump’s name be on them?


Bellows paused the effect of her decision pending an appeal in Maine Superior Court, which means that Trump’s name could appear on ballots for the March 5 primary if the case isn’t resolved soon.

The first round of ballots will be available starting on Jan. 20 for military and overseas voters, and on Feb. 5 for absentee voters.

In an interview this week, Bellows noted that Maine law doesn’t have provisions for adding a candidate if they qualify after ballots are printed, but there is a process for how the state should proceed if a candidate is disqualified or dies after ballots are printed.

If that happens within 70 days of an election, state law says those votes aren’t counted and requires the secretary of state to provide notices to local election officials to pass on to voters.

Could Trump still be on the ballot in November if he is deemed ineligible for the primary?

That also may depend on how the Supreme Court rules.


Bellows said Wednesday that she couldn’t comment on what may or may not happen in November. “It’s premature to do so pending litigation and the primary itself,” she said.

National political parties have until late summer to hold their conventions and choose their nominees for the general election. Maine and other states will send delegates based on the outcomes of their primary elections or caucuses.

Some Maine Republicans have suggested that they would hold caucuses to choose Maine’s nominee if primary ballot access is withheld, and some observers have said the Republican National Committee could try to change the nomination process in response to states barring Trump from the primaries. It’s unclear if there’s a timeline for making such changes and what the legal requirements would be.

Many experts believe that the Supreme Court ruling will avoid a state-by-state approach and the potential for more legal battles in the fall.

“One of the advantages is we’re pretty early in the process and the courts can decide these issues fairly fast,” Bam said. “So before we get to November, or even earlier when the ballots need to be printed, I think by that point we’ll have a resolution to the issue.”

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