Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has appealed the Kennebec County Superior Court’s ruling in the case concerning former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to appear on the state’s primary ballot to the Maine Supreme Court.
The Superior Court ruled Monday that Secretary Bellows must revisit her December decision blocking former President Trump from the ballot after the Supreme Court weighs in on Trump v. Anderson, a case concerning the former president’s eligibility to appear on Colorado’s presidential primary ballot later this year.
Friday, a Notice of Appeal was filed by Assistant Attorney General Jason Anton on behalf of Bellows, formally stating that the Secretary will be bringing the issue of Trump’s eligibility to appear on Maine’s ballot before the state’s highest judicial authority.
“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 release issued Friday morning.
“In the interim, Maine law provides the opportunity to seek review from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court – which I requested today,” she said. “I know both the constitutional and state authority questions are of grave concern to many.”
“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 concluded.
According to News Center Maine, a spokesperson for Bellows’ office stated that the Secretary will not be commenting further on the appeal.
Following an eight-plus hour hearing in December, Bellows ruled that Trump was ineligible to appear on the state’s presidential primary ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment — a Civil War era provision of the Constitution aimed at preventing former confederates from serving in government — due to his actions and inactions on January 6, 2021.
“I conclude,” Bellows wrote in her official decision, “that the record establishes that Mr. Trump, over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, 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.”
While a formal conviction is not necessarily a requirement for disqualification under Section Three, it is worth noting that Trump has never been convicted by a U.S. court or the U.S. Senate for any crime related to “insurrection.”
“The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr. Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multi-month effort to delegitimize a democratic election, and then chose to light a match,” Bellows concluded.
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Bellows wrote in her decision. “I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“I am also mindful, however,” she continued, “that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
Shortly before Bellows released her decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot in 2024, marking the first time in United States history that Section Three has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate.
At the beginning of January, the former president appealed the Colorado court’s decision to the United States Supreme Court, and the Justices granted cert after just two days, scheduling oral arguments for February 8, 2024.
In light of this, the former president asked Maine’s Kennebec County Superior Court to stay their consideration of Bellows’ ruling until the Supreme Court had the opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
Although the Superior Court agreed with Trump that it would be “imprudent” to continue proceedings in this case prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Anderson, they also agreed with Bellows that the Court lacks the authority to ignore the statutory deadlines established by Maine law.
Consequently, the Superior Court opted to remand the decision to Bellows pending a ruling from the Supreme Court in Anderson in order to to “promote consistency and avoid voter confusion” leading up to the primary election.
The effect of the Secretary’s December ruling was also been stayed pending a final opinion from the Supreme Court in Anderson, meaning that the former president’s name would not be removed from the ballot unless or until further action was taken requiring it to be.
It remains to be seen how Bellows’ appeal of this decision to the Maine Supreme Court will ultimately impact what what the state’s primary ballot looks like with respect to the former president come March.