Maine's top election official removes Donald Trump from 2024 presidential ballot

Maine’s top election official 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 Capitol.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, concluded that Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024, 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.

Bellows suspended her decision until the state supreme court ruled on the matter.

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 ruling, which can be appealed to a state court, applies only to the March primary election, but it could affect Trump’s status for the November general election. It 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.

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 in 2024.

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 an appeal on Trump's eligibility to hold office.

Maine is rated as likely Democratic by non-partisan election forecasters, meaning 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.

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. His legal team also made several procedural arguments, including that eligibility under Section 3 was not mentioned in required paperwork Trump filed to be on the ballot in the state.

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Colorado case may resolve the issue nationwide. The court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices nominated by Trump.