Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and Attorney General Aaron Frey said Thursday that they are reviewing election laws related to the 14th Amendment in order to determine if former President Donald Trump could be barred from the 2024 ballot over the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Secretary Bellows and Attorney General Frey, both former Democratic lawmakers, said that they are “working together to research and analyze the legal requirements for ballot access, including presidential ballot access, as we do prior to every major election,” in a written statement regarding “14th Amendment election law questions.”
The Maine Republican Party immediately condemned Frey and Bellows, asserting that the coordinated release of the statement was an attempt by Democratic Party officials to distract from the scandal engulfing the highest ranking Democratic lawmaker in Maine, Senate President Troy Jackson.
“Instead of chasing a fringe legal idea, Maine officials should be focused on Maine Senate President Democrat Troy Jackson’s legal, ethical, and moral mess that came to light this week,” Maine GOP Chairman Joel Stetkis said in a statement.
Jackson, who is second in the line of succession to the Governor of Maine, has found himself embroiled in scandal this week over court records and financial records — first unearthed by the Maine Wire — that raise questions about whether he lied in campaign finance filings, mortgage agreements, and insurance filings.
Stetkis said Republicans were prepared to defend the right of any candidate to access the ballot in Maine.
“Mainers should be able to vote for their preferred Republican against Joe Biden – as we’ve seen, Biden and his policies are deeply unpopular here because he’s doing a very bad job,” he said.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from holding public office any constitutional officer who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States or “given aid or comfort” to its enemies.
Trump, who is facing four indictments and a total of 91 criminal counts, is currently the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination, leading DeSantis by an average of 40 points nationally.
Trump won one electoral vote from Maine in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Maine is one of only two states that can divide its electoral college votes by congressional district.
“Any decisions about ballot access will be made dispassionately at the proper time in accordance with the laws and the Constitution, which will be our sole consideration,” Bellows and Frey said.
There have been calls throughout the country to have Trump disqualified from appearing on the 2024 ballot, including in Arizona, where on Wednesday the state’s Democratic Secretary of State said that he does not have the ability to bar Trump from the ballot because of a lack of statutory process to enforce the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Two prominent conservative constitutional legal scholars from the Federalist Society, William Baude and Michael Paulsen, recently published a research paper arguing that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies Trump, and others, from holding public office “because of their participation in the attempted overthrow of the 2020 presidential election.”
Baude and Paulsen argue that Section 3 is enforceable, not limited to the Civil War, can operate without any additional action needed by Congress, and that it covers a broad range of conduct against “the authority of constitutional order” — including indirect participation or support as “aid or comfort.”
Maine attorney and former Republican House Minority Leader Joshua Tardy told the Maine Wire that he is skeptical that Bellows’ and Frey’s legal research will result in Trump being disqualified from the state’s 2024 ballot.
“This is pretty heavy stuff, and I would suggest that the attorney general and the secretary of state not waste Maine taxpayer’s resources just because someone read a Law Review article that they thought was cool,” Tardy said. “But if they’re going to research it, they ought to look at the Due Process Clause, and focus on that.”
“And the real question that I would ask both the attorney general and the secretary of state is: why is the question not who is going to be on the ballot?” he said.
“I would turn it right into the political question that they think this is — do they think that Joe Biden should be running for reelection? That’s the question I’d turn right back on them and ask them,” he added.
State Rep. Mike Soboleski (R-Phillips), who is considering challenging Rep. Jared Golden in Maine CD-2, said that “the people of Maine will have the opportunity through the nominating petition process to decide who qualifies for the 2024 presidential ballot.”
“We don’t need unelected officials trying to make up rules to fit their liberal political agendas,” Soboleski said.