A Maine judge has put Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ decision to exclude Donald Trump from presidential primary ballots on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a similar case out of Colorado.

Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy sent the matter back to Bellows on Wednesday and ordered her to await the Supreme Court’s decision in the Colorado case and then issue a new ruling modifying, withdrawing or confirming her earlier decision.

The order came after Trump filed an appeal this month challenging Bellows’ decision that he is ineligible to appear on Maine’s primary ballot for violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Section 3 states that a person who has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution may not hold office if they “have engaged in insurrection.” Some legal scholars say the post-Civil War clause applies to Trump, a Republican, for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and encouraging his backers to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump is facing challenges and lawsuits regarding his eligibility for the ballot in states around the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided shortly after the Maine appeal was filed that it would hear an appeal of a Colorado Supreme Court’s decision disqualifying Trump from the ballot in that state, also on grounds he violated Section 3.


“While it is impossible to know what the Supreme Court will decide, hopefully it will at least clarify what role, if any, state decision makers, including secretaries of state and state judicial officers, play in adjudicating claims of disqualification brought under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” Murphy wrote.

Wednesday was the statutory deadline – 20 days after Bellows’ decision – for Murphy to rule on Trump’s appeal to the Maine Superior Court. He had requested that she hold off making a decision while the Supreme Court takes up the Colorado case. Murphy denied that request, saying she could not ignore the deadline in the statute.

However, Murphy wrote, Maine law would allow her to remand, or send back, the case to Bellows and effectively put it on hold without violating the law. The order notes that all parties in the case agreed Bellows’ decision should continue to be on hold pending the Supreme Court case.

A spokesperson for Bellows said Wednesday afternoon that she is reviewing the decision and did not immediately have a response.

A spokesperson for Trump said in a statement that Murphy’s order “is a correct action.”

“President Trump is confident that we will ultimately prevail with a fair ruling on the issues in front of the Supreme Court,” Steven Cheung said.


Bellows’ decision followed a complaint from Maine voters Kimberly Rosen, Tom Saviello and Ethan Strimling, who challenged Trump’s eligibility for the primary ballot under a process laid out in state law that includes a hearing before the secretary of state.

Ben Gaines, an attorney for the challengers, said they were “heartened that Justice Murphy left the secretary’s ruling intact.” Gaines said the challengers are working to figure out next steps and if there are other actions they might take while awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Colorado case on Feb. 8 and will rule sometime after that.


In her order Wednesday, Murphy said there are many federal issues that overlap in the Maine and Colorado cases, including questions about whether Trump’s eligibility under Section 3 must be determined by Congress, whether Section 3 applies to the presidency and whether Section 3 applies to people running for office as opposed to holding office.

“It is likely – although admittedly, not certain – that (the Colorado case) will resolve many questions raised in this appeal,” Murphy wrote.


She said waiting for the high court to weigh in also will help avoid a state-by-state approach as to how Trump’s eligibility should be decided, potentially leading to voter confusion.

“A remand to the secretary pending a decision by the Supreme Court on these unprecedented issues will promote consistency and avoid voter confusion in the weeks before the primary election,” Murphy wrote.

In the meantime, she said, eligible Maine voters who want to cast their vote for Trump in the primary may do so, and the winner will be determined using ranked choice voting. Absentee voting for the March 5 primary starts Feb. 5.

Maine also has a process for responding to the death or disqualification of a candidate after ballots have been printed. It requires the secretary of state to notify election officials, who in turn must notify voters, and says that votes for disqualified candidates won’t be counted.

“Accordingly, no significant harm will result from foregoing a decision on the merits of this matter at this time,” Murphy wrote.

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