Maine secretary of state denies politics played role in decision to kick Trump off ballot

The Maine election official who disqualified former President Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot said on Monday that politics did not influence her decision. 

Last week, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, ruled that Trump was barred from running for president in her state because he allegedly “engaged in insurrection” through his actions leading up to and during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol

“Politics and my personal views played no role,” Bellows told NPR in an interview. “I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and that is what I did.” 

Her controversial decision followed a similar ruling by Colorado’s state Supreme Court that cited Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars candidates who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from holding federal elected office. 

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The Trump campaign had derided both decisions and called Bellows “a virulent leftist and a hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat,” accusing her of election interference on behalf of President Biden. 

However, the Maine election chief explained said she was required to issue a decision after registered voters challenged Trump’s qualification for the ballot.

“Under Maine law, when I qualified Mr. Trump for the ballot, any registered voter had the right to challenge that qualification,” Bellows told “All Things Considered” host Scott Detrow. “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. So this wasn’t something I initiated, but it’s something that’s required under Maine election law.”

Bellows said she “carefully” reviewed evidence presented at a hearing that the violence on Jan. 6 “occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing president.” 

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She called the riot “tragic” and an “attack not only upon the capital and government officials, but also an attack on the rule of law, on the peaceful transfer of power.” 

“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,” Bellows said. 

The Maine and Colorado decisions provoked an outcry from Trump supporters, GOP officials and even some liberal Democrats who view efforts to take Trump off the ballot as overreach. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot, criticized Bellows’ decision and said voters should be able to vote for Trump “until he is actually found guilty of the crime of insurrection.” 

In response to her critics, Bellows told NPR that the Constitution does not require Trump to be convicted to be barred from the ballot. 

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“So I encourage people to read my decision, and also read very carefully Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. It doesn’t say ‘convict.’ It doesn’t say ‘convicted’ or ‘impeached,'” she said. 

“But furthermore, here’s what’s very, very important: In my decision, I made clear this is part of Maine’s process,” she continued. “It now goes to Maine Superior Court. Mr. Trump may, and will, appeal to Superior Court. Then it goes to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Bellows noted that she suspended her decision from taking effect pending court review of the Colorado and Maine actions. Trump is expected to contest both decisions and the case will likely be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court sometime before January 20 — the deadline when military and overseas voters must receive their ballots for Maine’s presidential primary on March 5. 

Bellows said Maine “would certainly welcome” a Supreme Court decision to clarify Trump’s eligibility to run for president. 

“So the courts are compelled by a very compressed timeline as well here in our state. And I am hopeful we’ll have resolution,” she said.

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