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Maine’s top election official appeals the ruling that delayed a decision on Trump’s ballot status

In World
January 20, 2024

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s secretary of state is appealing a judge’s ruling that put on hold her decision to remove former President Donald Trump from the ballot until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar case in Colorado.

Shenna Bellows concluded last month that Trump didn’t meet ballot qualifications under the insurrection clause in the U.S. Constitution, citing his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. That made her the first election official to ban the Republican ex-president from the ballot under the 14th Amendment.

But a state judge this week sent the case back to Bellows, a Democrat, with instructions to await the U.S. Supreme Court decision before withdrawing, modifying or upholding her decision.

On Friday, Bellows filed a notice of appeal. She said she welcomes guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court but also wanted an expedited review from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“I know both the constitutional and state authority questions are of grave concern to many,” Bellows said Friday in a statement. “This appeal ensures that Maine’s highest court has the opportunity to weigh in now, before ballots are counted, promoting trust in our free, safe and secure elections.”

Bellows said previously that she will follow the rule of law and abide by any decision issued by the courts.

The timelines are tight as the March 5 primary approaches. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the Colorado case on Feb. 8, which likely means there wouldn’t be enough time to meet statutory deadlines for Bellows to reissue a ruling on Trump’s ballot status and for additional appeals to be filed before Election Day.

The state will begin mailing overseas ballots on Saturday, and Trump’s name is on the ballots. If Trump were to be kept off the ballot, then Bellows would have to notify local election officials that votes cast for him would not be counted.

The nation’s highest court has never ruled on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. Some legal scholars say the post-Civil War clause applies to Trump for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and encouraging his backers to storm the U.S. Capitol after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Activists conducted a campaign urging election officials to bar Trump under the clause.

Trump’s campaign slammed Bellows’ decision to remove him from the ballot, saying, “We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter.”

Maine Republicans continued to attack Bellows’ motives on Friday. “There is a coordinated national effort to win this election for Joe Biden before a single vote is cast,” Maine GOP Chair Joel Stetkis said.

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