Top Maine Election Official to Appeal Ruling on Trump Ballot Decision

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced Friday that she will be appealing a lower court ruling that placed on hold her decision to keep former President Donald Trump off the state’s GOP primary ballot.

In late December, Bellows, who is her state’s top election official, ruled that the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause” bars Trump from seeking re-election, citing his central role in fomenting the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Supreme Court recently agreed to review a similar ruling in Colorado, and is slated to hear oral arguments on the question on February 8.

“Like many Americans, I welcome a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Colorado case that provides guidance as to the important Fourteenth Amendment questions in this case,” Bellows said 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’ announcement comes after a state Superior Court judge on Wednesday ruled that Bellows’ decision would be put on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the issue, arguing that “many of the issues presented in this case are likely to be resolved, narrowed, or rendered moot by the Supreme Court’s decision.” Without ruling on the merits of Bellows’ decision, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that the Secretary of State would have to issue a new ruling after the country’s highest court comes down on the issue.

In her statement, Bellows argued that “Maine law provides the opportunity to seek review from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.” But in a ruling released late Friday, Valerie Stanfill, the court’s chief justice, wrote that the Superior Court’s order was “generally not appealable,” and gave Bellows a deadline of Tuesday to explain why the court shouldn’t dismiss her appeal.

Maine is just one of at least 35 states legally challenging Trump’s eligibility on primary ballots; lawsuits are still ongoing in many states. The former president’s legal team released its opening brief in the Supreme Court case on Thursday, arguing that the legal challenges “promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots.” Trump called on the court to “put a swift and decisive end” to the challenges.

With Maine and Colorado GOP voters set to go to the polls on March 5, when 15 states will hold “Super Tuesday” nominating contests, the timeline on these cases is tight. It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will even be able to rule on the issue by that primary date. Nicholas Jacobs, an assistant professor of government at Maine’s Colby College, told The New York Times Friday that “the only thing we can be sure of is that, come Super Tuesday, Mainers are going to be even more confused about whether their vote counts.”

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