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Maine Becomes Second State To Ban Trump From 2024 Ballots

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The 2024 presidential election was rocked last week by a shocking ruling from Maine ‘s Secretary of State to remove Donald Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot. 

Shenna Bellows’ shocking invocation of the obscure 14th Amendment represents a major escalation in the legal war to prevent Trump’s return to the White House, with Maine now becoming the second state after Colorado to remove Trump from the primary ballot.

With Trump’s eligibility now set for chaotic court showdowns in multiple states, America faces a volatile new phase of political turmoil dominated by fierce disputes over the former president’s role in the Capitol riots. 

Though Trump remains the runaway favorite for the GOP nomination, Democrats are aggressively wielding novel legal theories to thwart his candidacy before voters get a say.

As Trump ignites yet another constitutional firestorm, America braces for a supreme battle over the foundation of its democracy – the integrity of its elections. 

Has America crossed a dangerous new frontier where candidates can be preemptively banned from the ballot?

Maine’s top election official, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, made the shock decision on Thursday to remove former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 Republican primary ballot. 

Bellows cited the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” as the basis for her ruling. This makes Maine the second state after Colorado to disqualify Trump from appearing on the ballot due to his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Bellows, a Democrat, made her decision after presiding over an administrative hearing earlier in January regarding Trump’s eligibility to be on the ballot. The case was brought by a bipartisan group of former Maine state lawmakers who filed a formal challenge to Trump’s candidacy.

In announcing her ruling, Bellows said “I do not reach this conclusion lightly. Democracy is sacred…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, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”

While Bellows maintains her duty is to uphold the Constitution, her shock decision to invoke the 14th Amendment against Trump appears driven more by partisan politics than a sober legal analysis. 

As the first Secretary of State to ever take such drastic action against a major presidential candidate, Bellows has drawn accusations of bias stemming from her progressive background. 

She is essentially abusing her position to unilaterally target and punish Trump. Her controversial ruling seems intended to appease Democratic voters rather than objectively weigh the legal uncertainties around applying the 14th Amendment. 

With even liberal justices inclined to allow voters to decide, Bellows has taken an activist stance that aggressively disregards due process and exceeds her authority.

The 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, states that American officials who “engage in” insurrection cannot hold future office. However, the amendment does not specify how this ban should be enforced, leaving it open to interpretation. The Supreme Court will ultimately decide how it applies across the country.

Nonetheless, Bellows asserted in her decision that she has a legal duty to uphold the 14th Amendment and bar insurrectionists like Trump from Maine’s primary ballot. She wrote, “The oath I swore to uphold the Constitution comes first above all, and my duty under Maine’s election laws…is to ensure that candidates who appear on the primary ballot are qualified for the office they seek.”

Bellows went on to say the evidence clearly showed the January 6 attack was carried out “at the behest of” Trump. She wrote, “The Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government.”

Trump’s campaign spokesman Steven Cheung quickly denounced Bellows as a “virulent leftist” interfering in the election. Cheung said in a statement, “Democrats in blue states are recklessly and un-Constitutionally suspending the civil rights of the American voters by attempting to summarily remove President Trump’s name from the ballot.”

Despite the criticism, Bellows maintained she has an obligation to adhere to the 14th Amendment. She cited the recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling, which also removed Trump from the ballot, writing that states have authority “to keep unqualified candidates off the ballot.”

However, Bellows said her decision will be put on hold pending an appeal to Maine’s Superior Court. Under Maine law, the Superior Court now has 20 days to issue its own ruling on the matter before the January 17th deadline to finalize the ballot.

In her decision, Bellows said she “had little trouble” concluding the attack on the Capitol qualified as an insurrection. She wrote that a “large and angry crowd” broke into the building, assaulting police officers and ransacking offices in an organized effort to violently prevent Congress from certifying Trump’s election defeat.

Echoing the Colorado court’s reasoning, Bellows said Trump deliberately spread false claims of election fraud to “inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent…the peaceful transfer of power.” She wrote, “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 firmly rejected Trump’s defense that the 14th Amendment does not apply to the presidency, writing that the “history of Section Three firmly supports the idea that it covers the presidency.” She concluded, “the text, history, and context of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment make clear that it covers the President.”

Bellows’ categorical assertion that the 14th Amendment clearly applies to the presidency betrays a lack of objectivity. Constitutional scholars continue to fiercely debate this unsettled question. 

While Bellows cites the amendment’s history, many argue its vague text and inconclusive origins fail to definitively resolve whether sitting presidents are covered. 

Bellows glosses over lingering ambiguities and disregard dissenting opinions that the presidency falls outside the scope. Her definitive conclusion implies stronger consensus than exists and seems contrived to justify her desired outcome.

In response to Bellows’ impending decision, Trump’s legal team sent her a letter demanding that she recuse herself due to past tweets she made about January 6. The tweets described the attack as an “insurrection” and criticized the senators who acquitted Trump in his second impeachment trial related to the riot.

Trump’s lawyers wrote that Bellows has already “passed judgment on the Challengers’ core assertions” by using similar language about an insurrection. However, Bellows has not publicly commented on the demand for recusal.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Republican Party announced that it has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn Colorado’s disqualification of Trump. The party is represented by conservative litigator Jay Sekulow. Trump is also expected to file his own Supreme Court appeal very soon.

The Colorado GOP argued the state court wrongly applied the 14th Amendment’s “disqualification clause” to bar a presidential candidate for the first time ever. They assert the presidency is not covered by the clause, which prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding “any office.”

The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled 4-3 that Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss amounted to engaging in insurrection, and that the ban could apply to the presidency. The justices emphasized Trump’s role in inciting the violent attack on the Capitol.

However, Trump and the Colorado GOP maintain he did not encourage unlawful conduct and say courts in states like Minnesota have already declined to keep him off the primary ballot. They rightly accuse Democrats of trying to undermine Trump’s candidacy through the courts rather than winning at the ballot box.

With Maine’s decision also likely headed to the Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court appears poised to soon issue a definitive ruling on whether Trump’s rhetoric surrounding the events of January 6th warrants removing him from the 2024 ballot under the 14th Amendment.

The Colorado and Maine decisions represent the only successes so far for efforts to invoke the 14th Amendment against Trump. Courts in other states like Michigan have soundly rejected similar lawsuits brought by liberal and progressive groups.

Democrats are trampling Trump’s constitutional rights and setting a dangerous precedent by selectively targeting political opponents. However, Trump’s critics argue allowing him on the ballot would pose a danger by rewarding an undemocratic attempt to cling to power.

The Supreme Court showdown over Trump’s eligibility will likely become one of the most momentous and closely watched cases of the 2024 election cycle. With Trump still immensely popular among GOP voters, the outcome could significantly shape both the Republican primary and general election. 

For now, the legal and political battles over the insurrectionist ban continue to rage in multiple states. But the Supreme Court may soon have the final word on whether Trump’s baseless election fraud claims and fiery rhetoric before January 6 went too far under the Constitution.

While Maine and Colorado have moved to bar Trump from their primary ballots, a similar effort recently failed in Michigan. Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected an appeal seeking to disqualify Trump under the 14th Amendment. The court ruled on procedural grounds without examining whether the Capitol attack legally constituted an insurrection or whether Trump played a role in inciting it.

The appeal was filed by the pro-democracy group Free Speech for People, which claimed Trump should be deemed ineligible over his connection to the January 6th riots. However, the Michigan justices said the group had not identified a provision in state election law requiring presidential candidates to certify they are qualified for office.

Trump praised the Michigan decision on his social media platform, calling the 14th Amendment case a “pathetic gambit to rig the election.” He will now remain on the state’s February 27 Republican primary ballot. Michigan is considered a crucial swing state, narrowly won by Trump in 2016 before flipping back to the Democrats and Joe Biden in 2020.

While the Michigan ruling was based on technicalities, the merits of the 14th Amendment argument face long odds given the conservative tilt of the US Supreme Court. 

Cases there seem destined to fail like previous attempts in states such as New Hampshire and Minnesota. For now, the Colorado and Maine decisions remain the only instances of a candidate being disqualified under the 14th Amendment.

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