Maine's Secretary of State Explains Reasons to Block Trump from Primary Vote

Maine Secretary of State Shanna Bellows says she followed Maine's election law and upheld the U.S. Constitution. Donald Trump was disqualified from his state's presidential primary ballot.

Maine is Second state to ban Trump From the bottom ballot Article 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution — a decision that the Trump campaign will appeal. It is the only state where a challenge to a candidate's eligibility is the responsibility of the Secretary of State rather than the courts first.

CBS News spoke with Bellows shortly after his decision was announced Thursday night.

The interview was limited to a discussion of her judgment and process, leaving questions about potential risks to her safety unanswered. In awareness of Decision of the Colorado Supreme Court A judgment to disqualify Trump from office An appeal is currently pending – Colorado judges voted to ban him Inundated with threats.

“Weighing the weight of the evidence, it is clear that Mr. Trump was aware of Tinder's months-long effort to delegitimize the 2020 election and (he) then chose to light the match,” said Bellows, a Democrat who will be sworn in in 2021.

“The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an attack on the foundations of our government. And Maine's election law requires me to act in response,” he said. “The events of January 6th were unprecedented and tragic. It was an attack not only on the Capitol and government officials, including the former Vice President and members of Congress, but also on the rule of law. … Mr. Trump engaged in that rebellion and, as such, does not deserve to be on the ballot.”

Maine Secretary of State Shanna Bellows

Robert F. Bugatti / AP

Under Maine law, voters can file a petition with the secretary of state with challenges to a candidate's qualifications for office, and then a public hearing is held where the challengers must state their case.

“In Maine, we're very proud of our suffrage. We were First in the nation 2022 with voter participation. And we have a statute that sets me apart from other states that I've looked at,” Bellows said. “My duty under Maine state law is to issue a decision very quickly. I am not permitted under Maine law to wait for the Supreme Court of the United States to intervene in this particular proceeding.”

An appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court's decision is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the high court decides to reconsider the case, it could have broader implications for other challenges to Trump's eligibility across the country.

In his conclusion, Bellows acknowledged that it would “soon become invalid,” but “that possibility does not absolve me of my responsibility to act.”

In a statement released Thursday night, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said, “We will quickly file a legal challenge in state court to block the implementation of this draconian decision in Maine.”

“In real time, we are witnessing attempted election fraud and disenfranchisement of the American electorate,” he added.

Bellows: “I take the First Amendment very seriously”

Bellows was sworn in as Secretary of State on January 6, 2021, two days before the attack on the US capital. He previously served two terms in the Maine Senate. He is also the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine.

“I take the Constitution very seriously. I swear to uphold it. I take the First Amendment very seriously,” Bellows said.

Trump has argued that his conduct regarding the 2020 election and the events of January 6th cannot disqualify him from the presidency because his speech is protected by the First Amendment.

But Bellows rejected that argument, saying, “The law is very clear that the First Amendment does not permit incitement to a riot.”

Trump argued that the 14th Amendment did not apply to the presidency, citing an early draft of Article 3 that referred to “the office of the president or vice president.” Deliberately removed to exclude those offices.

Bellows found, however, that the initial draft actually “confirms that the drafters both intended the presidency to be covered by Article Three and considered the presidency an office.” In his conclusion, he points out that it is “incredible that the framers of Article Three chose to exempt the highest office of our government from an amendment that kept Confederates from positions of power.”

During our interview, he emphasized the facts presented during his sentencing testimony and facts Public hearing Held in Maine on December 15, Trump's eligibility faced three challenges filed by registered voters, including three Republicans and a panel of former state senators from the Democratic Party.

Two challengers asserted that Trump was barred from office for sedition, in violation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. A third challenger introduced an innovative theory, arguing that Trump is barred from re-election under the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars presidents from serving more than two terms, because “Trump has publicly stated that he won the 2020 election.”

Bellows ultimately determined that Trump was disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, but not under the 22nd.

“The parties at trial do not dispute that Mr. Joseph Biden won the 2020 election and that Mr. Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election,” he explained. “Public statements that Mr. Trump won are not factual evidence that Mr. Trump won, and indeed, neither Mr. Trump's counsel nor challengers have made that argument. Therefore, I have ruled that Mr. Trump did not win the 2020 and 22nd elections. For two terms The amendment of the Act on holding higher office is not applicable.”

The Republican primaries for both Maine and Colorado will be held on March 5, known as Super Tuesday. Maine's ballots for military and overseas voters should be ready by Jan. 19. Bellows expects Maine's Supreme Court to rule on or before Jan. 17, pending an appeal of his decision. He suspended his own judgment for five days to allow for that. Such an appeal.

“I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential nominee of access to the ballot by virtue of Section 3,” Bellows said, echoing a line from his ruling. “I also note that no presidential candidate has ever been convicted of sedition under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.”

A potential indictment is propensity

Associated Press reported on Friday Bellows faces an impeachment attempt in Maine's state legislature.

At least one Republican lawmaker has vowed to seek impeachment, the Associated Press reported, but the effort faces long odds in Maine's Democratic-controlled Legislature. According to the Associated Press, state Rep. John Andrews called Bellows' decision “hyper-discrimination in full view.” Andrews said he sent notice to the state Office of Corrections for a joint order to set the wheels in motion before lawmakers return to Augusta next week.

House Republican Speaker Billy Bob Falkingham said there was “bipartisan opposition” to Bellows' ruling and that he had “clearly overstepped his authority.”

“It remains to be seen whether his effort to suppress voters will garner enough Democratic support to remove him from office,” he told The Associated Press. Other representatives on both sides of the aisle have chosen not to support Bellows' decision, with one Democrat telling The Associated Press she believes Trump should remain on the ballot “until he is found guilty of sedition.”

Bellows said Friday he had no comment on the effort.

“Under Maine law, I have not only the authority but the duty to act,” he told The Associated Press. “I will follow the constitution and the rule of law as dictated by the courts,” he added.

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