Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows unilaterally ruled that former President Donald Trump is unqualified to appear on the 2024 primary ballot despite lacking a law degree and substituting YouTube videos for due process.
Bellows, who previously worked as Executive Director of the Maine Chapter of the ACLU but is not an attorney and did not attend law school, made the legal conclusion in her ruling that “the declaration on [Trump’s] candidate consent form is false because he is not qualified to hold the office of the President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The secretary of state, a Democrat whose social media is littered with photos of President Joe Biden, justified her ruling based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment’s “Insurrection Clause.” The statute has never been used to disqualify a president from the ballot and has generally been understood not to apply to the office of the president, although left-leaning plaintiffs have sued across the country in long-shot hopes of keeping Trump from appearing on primary ballots.
Bellows’ ruling that Trump engaged in the crime of insurrection comes despite Trump having never been convicted of that — or any other — crime, or even been charged in court with the crime of insurrection. He was acquitted by the U.S. Senate of charges of engaging in insurrection and continues to deny wrongdoing.
Her decision has met with widespread scrutiny.
CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig said Thursday on Anderson Cooper 360 that Bellows’ decision to bar Trump from the ballot was based on “YouTube clips, news reports” and “things that would never pass the bar in normal court.”
While acknowledging the case is “legally unknown territory” — the Supreme Court has never ruled on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment — the alarmed Honig argued that Trump has a good case that he did not receive due process.
“Were the processes, were the hearings fair?” he asked. “Did they comport with due process?”
He continued, “They heard from one fact witness, a law professor. [Bellows] based her ruling on a lot of documents, but also YouTube clips, news reports, things that would never pass the bar in normal court.”
Maine’s Congressional delegation also took issue with Bellows’ ruling
Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said the decision whether to vote for Trump should “rest with the people.”
My statement on the Maine Secretary of State’s decision barring Donald Trump from the 2024 primary ballot ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/a1iZnM0c1d
— Senator Angus King (@SenAngusKing) December 29, 2023
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican but no friend of Trump’s, issued a statement that did not mention Trump by name but said, “Secretary of State’s decision would deny thousands of Mainers the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice, and it should be overturned.”
Maine voters should decide who wins the election – not a Secretary of State chosen by the Legislature.
The Secretary of State’s decision would deny thousands of Mainers the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice, and it should be overturned.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) December 29, 2023
Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who voted to impeach Trump, said, “until he is found guilty of the crime of insurrection, [Trump] should be allowed on the ballot.”
My statement on the Maine Secretary of State’s ruling: pic.twitter.com/ByO3XJe1JS
— Congressman Jared Golden (@RepGolden) December 29, 2023
Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who is also not an attorney, said that it “appears” Trump’s actions violated the Constitution but offered little additional analysis other than supporting the decision.
On January 6, 2021, Donald Trump incited a violent mob to block Congress from certifying the Electoral College + overturn the 2020 presidential election. Our Constitution is the very bedrock of America and our laws and it appears Trump’s actions are prohibited by the Constitution
— Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) December 29, 2023
The Colorado Supreme Court reversed a lower court opinion, determining that Trump engaged in insurrection and therefore is unfit to appear on the 2024 Republican presidential primary ballot. That ruling has been stayed as Trump appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Colorado case would likely settle the issue in Maine and other Section 3 cases across the country.
Bradley Jaye is a Capitol Hill Correspondent for Breitbart News. Follow him on X/Twitter at @BradleyAJaye.