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Maine elections official disqualifies Trump from presidential primary ballot

Maine elections official disqualifies Trump from presidential primary ballot © Reuters. Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, U.S. December 19, 2023. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Maine on Thursday disqualified Donald Trump from the state ballot in next year’s U.S. presidential primary election, becoming the second state to bar the former president for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, concluded that Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, incited an insurrection when he spread false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election and then urged his supporters to march on the Capitol to stop lawmakers from certifying the vote.

“The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government,” Bellows wrote in a 34-page ruling.

The decision can be appealed to a state Superior Court, and Bellows suspended her ruling until the court rules on the matter.

Trump’s campaign said it would quickly file an objection to the “atrocious” decision.

Lawyers for Trump have disputed that he engaged in insurrection and argued that his remarks to supporters on the day of the 2021 riot were protected by his right to free speech.

The decision came after a group of former Maine lawmakers said that Trump should be disqualified based on a provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars people from holding office if they engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” after previously swearing an oath to the United States.

The former lawmakers — Kimberley Rosen, Thomas Saviello and Ethan Strimling — said in a statement that Bellows “stood on the side of democracy and our constitution in her decision to bar former President Donald Trump from Maine’s ballot.”

Rosen and Saviello are both former Republican state senators. Strimling is a former Democratic state senator.

The ruling applies only to Maine’s March primary election, but it could affect Trump’s status for the November general election. The ruling likely will add to pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve questions about Trump’s eligibility nationwide under the constitutional provision known as Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

The court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices nominated by Trump.

Trump has been indicted in both a federal case and in Georgia for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election, but he has not been charged with insurrection related to the Jan. 6 attack. He leads opinion polls by a large margin in the race for the Republican nomination.

Colorado’s top court disqualified Trump from the state primary ballot on Dec. 19, making him the first candidate in U.S. history to be deemed ineligible for the presidency for engaging in insurrection.

Trump has vowed to appeal the Colorado ruling to the Supreme Court and criticized ballot challenges as “undemocratic.” The Colorado Republican Party filed its own Supreme Court appeal on Wednesday.

Similar attempts to disqualify Trump in other states have been rejected. The top court in Michigan, a pivotal battleground state in the general election, declined on Wednesday to hear a case seeking to disqualify Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot.

Maine is rated as likely Democratic by non-partisan election forecasters, meaning that President Joe Biden is expected to win the state. But Trump captured one electoral vote from Maine in both the 2016 and 2020 elections due to an unusual setup that allows the state to split its four Electoral College votes.

Candidates must win 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency.

Advocacy groups and some anti-Trump voters have challenged Trump’s candidacy in several states under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the U.S. Civil War to keep former confederates from serving in government.

Unlike other states, Bellows, who oversees elections in Maine, was required to make an initial determination about disqualification before it was considered by the courts.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber on Thursday included Trump on the certified list of candidates for its March 5 primary election, indicating it was up to courts to resolve any ballot challenges.

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