Bellows’ decision Thursday increases pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and ultimately decide Trump’s fate — as the Colorado Republican Party this week asked the justices to do.
Unlike the Colorado decision, this one came from an individual official affiliated with the Democratic Party. And Maine, unlike Colorado, has been a presidential battleground in recent years; under an unusual state law, he voted for Trump in one of his electoral colleges in 2016 and 2020.
Trump was quick to attack the decision, with one aide calling it “partisan election interference.” But his withdrawal from elections in two states remains a stark illustration of his deep legal and political vulnerabilities.
Bellows, who made the appeal in Maine because state law requires the secretary to rule on election challenges to candidates’ eligibility, defended his decision in his determination.
“I am aware that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access on the basis of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Bellows wrote. “However, I am also aware that no presidential candidate has ever engaged in an insurrection. »
Trump will almost certainly appeal this decision. But by becoming the second state to exclude Trump from the ballot, it marks a major step in activists’ efforts to prevent Trump from running for the Oval Office again — moving beyond the confines of an isolated incident in one state to become the start of a conflict. model.
Bellows has at times made forceful arguments around Trump’s political conduct to defend his decision.
“Trump’s occasional demands that rioters be peaceful and support law enforcement does not immunize his actions,” she wrote. “Trump was aware of the tinderbox posed by his months-long effort to delegitimize a democratic election, and then chose to light a match.”
However, she suspended her own decision to remove Trump from the state’s ballot pending an appeal to the state courts.
Activists and voters have filed numerous lawsuits across the country claiming that Trump is not allowed to hold office under the “insurrection clause” of the 14th Amendment. This clause states that anyone who “has engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath to support the Constitution is prohibited from holding public office.
Bellows’ decision follows an hour-long hearing in the state earlier this month, during which Trump’s lawyers argued that she did not have the discretion to make a decision on the Trump’s electability and that he had not participated in or aided in an insurrection.
The challenge to Trump’s electability propels Bellows into the spotlight in an unusual way. Many of his fellow secretaries of state across the country have also been pressured to exclude Trump from the ballot, but they have argued that the courts — not election officials — are the appropriate jurisdiction to make that decision.
But Maine state law gives Bellows a quasi-judicial role in eligibility challenges, something many of his colleagues do not do.
In a statement, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung attacked Bellows as “a former ACLU attorney, a virulent leftist, and a hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat.” He said the campaign “will promptly file a legal objection in state court to prevent this atrocity.” decision in Maine to take effect.
A second state invoking the 14th Amendment to block Trump from the ballot makes it even more likely that the nation’s highest court will intervene to resolve the dispute. The Colorado justices stressed that they were unlikely to have the final say.
“We are also aware that we are traveling into uncharted territory and that this case presents several problems of first impression,” the Colorado majority wrote. The Colorado court temporarily stayed its own ruling to give Trump time to appeal to the Supreme Court.
That’s exactly what the Colorado Republican Party did Wednesday, meaning Trump will likely appear on Colorado’s primary ballot while the high court deliberates whether — or how — to decide the case.
Bellows references the Colorado case in his explanation, writing that his “decision may soon be overturned by a decision of the United States Supreme Court,” adding that this fact “does not relieve me of my responsibility to act.”
Also Wednesday, the Michigan State Supreme Court ruled that Trump could participate in the state’s primary ballot, finding that the secretary of state did not have the authority to make that decision.
Although a legal headache, Colorado’s decision has further rallied Republicans to Trump’s side. Following the ruling, President Joe Biden said it was “obvious” that Trump supported an insurrection, but that “if the 14th Amendment applies, I will let the court make that decision.”