Maine Secretary of State Claims Politics Played ‘No Role’ in Booting Trump Off Ballot

Maine Secretary of State Says She’s Received Threats After Removing Trump From Ballot


Politics played no role in her unilateral decision to bar former President Donald Trump from the state primary ballot, the Maine Secretary of State has claimed.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has denied that politics played any role in her unilateral decision to bar former President Donald Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot, as she faces backlash that includes a push for her impeachment.

Ms. Bellows, whose office oversees elections in Maine, ruled on Dec. 28 to disqualify President Trump, who currently leads the Republican primary race, from the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot on the grounds that he supposedly incited an “insurrection” when a crowd breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Her decision was based on an interpretation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars people from holding office if they’ve engaged in an “insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. government. President Trump, who has denied such allegations, has not been charged with insurrection.

While Ms. Bellows has been accused of making a politically-driven decision to interfere in the election, she denied that her decision to disqualify President Trump from the ballot was political.

“Politics and my personal views played no role,” Ms. Bellows, a Democrat, claimed in a Jan. 1 interview with NPR. “I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that is what I did.”

Despite such denials, Ms. Bellows has faced sharp criticism.

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 Former President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis, on April 14, 2023. (Michael Conroy/AP)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis, on April 14, 2023. (Michael Conroy/AP)

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung called her a “virulent leftist” and a “hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat who has decided to interfere in the presidential election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden.”

Maine state Rep. John Andrews, a Republican, has filed a request with the Maine Revisor’s office for Ms. Bellows to be impeached, while she claims to have received threats and said her house was swatted.

“I stand by doing my job, but the response, the threats of violence and threatening communications, have been unacceptable,” she told NPR.

Ms. Bellows’ decision to bar President Trump from the Maine ballot on 14th Amendment grounds followed a similar decision by the Colorado Supreme Court, which the Trump team has also criticized as is set to appeal to the nation’s highest court.

Both decisions remain frozen pending appeal. Ms. Bellows’ decision is suspended pending a court process that includes an appeal to Maine’s Superior Court and then, as President Trump’s attorneys have pledged, potentially before the U.S. Supreme Court.

While it’s unclear what the U.S. Supreme Court will do, taking up any appeal is likely to freeze the dozen or so other legal challenges to President Trump’s candidacy over the 14th Amendment in a number of states.

 Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in an interview on Dec. 29, 2023, in a video still. (CNN/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in an interview on Dec. 29, 2023, in a video still. (CNN/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

The Disqualification

Most of the 14th Amendment challenges to President Trump’s eligibility as a presidential candidate have played out before the courts, but Ms. Bellows took the decision by herself.

“I conclude that Mr. Trump’s primary petition is invalid,” Ms. Bellows wrote in her ruling. “Specifically, I find that the declaration on his candidate consent form is false because he is not qualified to hold the office of the President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

She cited the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol as justification for her decision, arguing that President Trump “used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power.”

 President Donald Trump at the Save America rally in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)
President Donald Trump at the Save America rally in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)

President Trump held a rally near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, in which he made statements encouraging his supporters to march to the Capitol, where Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election.

While President Trump called for the day’s events to be peaceful, a group of people breached the Capitol, leading to a violent confrontation with law enforcement.

Even though President Trump said in his Jan. 6 speech that protesters should “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” his critics have seized on a portion of his remarks where he said, “We fight like hell” and “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” as a call for violence.

The former president has repeatedly denied calling for violent protests while insisting he meant his remarks about fighting metaphorically.

Ms. Bellows claimed in her ruling that “the evidence” shows that the Jan. 6 Capitol breach happened “at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of” President Trump.

She elaborated on this during the NPR interview when asked about how she determined that what happened on Jan. 6 was an “insurrection,” a loaded term that has been repeatedly used by President Trump’s critics to tie him to what would amount to a treasonous crime.

The Rationale

Ms. Bellows explained that when she was considering whether to qualify President Trump for Maine’s 2024 presidential ballot, any registered voter had the right to lodge a challenge.

“Five voters did so, including two former Republican state senators. And then I was required under the statute, under the law, to hold a hearing and issue a decision and do so within a very compressed timeline,” she told NPR, insisting that the hearing was not something she initiated but is required under Maine election law.

She then said she reviewed the hearing proceedings and the weight of the evidence presented to her at the hearing “very carefully” before deciding to portray President Trump’s moves as the actions of an insurrectionist.

“That evidence made clear, first, that those events of January 6, 2021—and we all witnessed them. They were unprecedented. They were tragic. But they were an attack not only upon the Capitol and government officials but also an attack on the rule of law, on the peaceful transfer of power,” she said.

“And the evidence presented at the hearing demonstrated that they occurred at the behest of and with the knowledge and support of the outgoing president. And the United States Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government. And under Maine election law, I was required to act in response,” she continued.

Critics of her decision have pointed out that President Trump has not been found guilty of the crime of insurrection. When asked about this line of criticism, Ms. Bellows said people should read Section 3 of the 14th Amendment “very carefully” before adding that “it doesn’t say convicted or impeached.”

While Ms. Bellows did not provide further detail in the NPR interview regarding the evidence upon which she based her decision, her ruling states that she accepted the Jan. 6 committee’s final report as legitimate. The report, which repeatedly labels the Jan. 6 incident as an “insurrection,” has been widely criticized as biased.

14th Amendment

Ratified after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment extended citizenship and equal rights to former slaves and all persons born and naturalized in the United States.

Section 3 of the amendment prohibited anyone who had participated in “rebellions” or “insurrections” from holding office unless they had a two-thirds vote of exemption from Congress.

Section 3 reads: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

The left-leaning group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued on behalf of several Colorado voters to block President Trump from appearing on the ballot.

Colorado 2nd District Court Judge Sarah Wallace issued a 100-plus page ruling on Nov. 17 that found the former president had engaged in an “insurrection” by inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

However, the judge dismissed the lawsuit by finding that the 14th Amendment didn’t apply to the presidency and ordered the state secretary to put President Trump on the primary ballot.

The move prompted CREW to file an appeal on Nov. 20 with the Colorado Supreme Court, asking it to rule that the 14th Amendment does, in fact, apply to the presidency.

The Colorado Supreme Court then ruled on Dec. 19 that President Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot, citing the lower court’s finding “by clear and convincing evidence that President Trump engaged in insurrection as those terms are used in Section Three” of the 14th Amendment.

The unprecedented ruling makes Colorado the first and only state to disqualify President Trump from appearing on a state primary ballot.

It also makes President Trump the first candidate in U.S. history to be declared ineligible to run for the White House.

The Colorado decision has met with a firestorm of criticism, with even some of President Trump’s political rivals denouncing it as undemocratic.

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