Maine’s top elections official has ruled that Donald Trump cannot run for state president next year, citing a constitutional insurrection clause.
Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said Mr Trump was ineligible because of his actions leading up to the 2021 US Capitol riot.
Maine now joins Colorado as two states to bar Mr. Trump from the ballot.
These decisions increase pressure on the Supreme Court to intervene.
Colorado reliably votes Democratic, however, Maine is more politically competitive and it would be more important for Mr. Trump – the Republican frontrunner – to lose.
Hours after Maine’s decision, California announced that Mr. Trump would remain on the ballot.
Ms Bellows’ 34-page ruling states that Mr Trump must be barred from the Maine primary vote due to the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution – which prohibits him from holding office if he has “engaged in insurrection or a rebellion.”
In her order, Ms. Bellows, a Democrat, claims that Mr. Trump “over 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.”
She added that her “casual requests for rioters to be peaceful and support law enforcement do not immunize her actions.”
Speaking to BBC News, Ms Bellows said it was her duty to uphold election laws in her state and that she hoped “the Supreme Court would resolve this issue nationally”.
“I am aware that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the 14th Amendment. But I am also aware that no presidential candidate has is never engaged in an insurrection.”
She denied her decision was political, saying it was “thorough and based on the rule of law.”
Mr. Trump faces upcoming trials over his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat to Democrat Joe Biden. In neither case was he charged with inciting insurrection.
Her campaign quickly criticized Bellows’ decision, having previously asked her to recuse herself from the process.
Campaign spokesman Steven Cheung called Ms. Bellows a “hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat” and claimed she was engaging in “election interference.”
He added that the campaign “will quickly file a legal objection in state court to prevent this atrocious decision in Maine from taking effect.”
Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals for the presidency also criticized Maine’s decision.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Maine’s decision “opens Pandora’s box,” suggesting Republican secretaries of state may try to disqualify President Joe Biden on the issue of migrants at the southern border.
“I don’t think it will ultimately be legally upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. But I think it will be a constant throughout the election year, where there will be different parts of these legal cases that play out . be at the forefront,” he told Fox News.
Vivek Ramaswamy said “this is what a real threat to democracy looks like.”
Mr. Trump’s 2024 presidential bid has been challenged in several states on the grounds that the 14th Amendment bars him from holding office.
The 14th Amendment was ratified after the American Civil War to prevent Confederate secessionists from returning to power after the southern states returned to the Union.
The Colorado ban was the first instance where the Constitution was used to disqualify a presidential candidate.
And state courts in Michigan and Minnesota also recently rejected attempts to block Mr. Trump from voting.
The case to impeach him in the New England state was brought by a handful of former Maine lawmakers who argued the former president violated his oath of office.
Former federal prosecutor Joe Moreno told BBC News he thought “there’s no way this could hold up.”
“It’s incredibly arrogant of him to unilaterally decide that someone committed insurrection,” Moreno said of Ms. Bellows’ decision.
“It’s going to create a political uproar…that’s the unfortunate outcome here,” he said, adding that he viewed Maine and Colorado as “very flimsy legal decisions.”
All of this is leading to a showdown before the Supreme Court — which Mr. Moreno said should happen “quickly” to prevent more states from individually determining Trump’s electability.
He also has upcoming trials in federal court and the state of Georgia for his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
But he was not charged with inciting insurrection in either case.
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