What Comes Next for Trump, Maine’s Camden— Despite the justices’ desire to stay out of this political and legal maze, the unusual constitutional question surrounding two states’ decision that Donald Trump is unable to serve as president again appears destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.
What Comes Next for Trump in the Maine Ballot Dispute
The campaign of the former president intends to appeal the Maine Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday right away, just as they did the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling last week. Due to his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, both believed that Trump was ineligible to serve as president under the terms of the 14th Amendment.
Because both states postponed implementing their decisions to give higher courts more time to weigh in, Trump will still be on the ballot in both states for the GOP presidential primary in 2019.
The Democratic secretary of state for Maine, Shenna Bellows, stated in an interview with NBC News that although she would have preferred to wait for the US Supreme Court to guide the unique legal question—never before has a presidential candidate been declared ineligible under the 14th Amendment—she acknowledged that Maine law required her to take action immediately.
“The nation would benefit greatly if the US Supreme Court provided unambiguous guidance on this novel constitutional issue for everyone to adhere to,” Bellows stated.
A nationwide anomaly, Maine’s election law permits any voter who is registered to contest a candidate’s eligibility. The challenge calls for a public hearing to be held by the secretary of state, who must then make a judgment quickly.
Two of the three voters contested Trump’s eligibility based on the 14th Amendment. Bellows convened a hearing last week, and this week’s end was the legal deadline for her conclusion.
“I didn’t decide to call this hearing or make a ruling. According to the Constitution and Maine election rules, I had obligations,” Bellows stated.
“The country would be well served if the United States Supreme Court issues clear guidance on this unprecedented constitutional question for all to follow,” Bellows said.
Maine election law, an outlier nationally, allows any registered voter to challenge the eligibility of any candidate. It calls for the secretary of state to hold a public hearing on the challenge and then make a decision within a short time frame.
Three voters questioned Trump’s eligibility, two of whom invoked the 14th Amendment. Bellows had a hearing last week, and the legal deadline for her ruling was the end of this week.
“I chose not to hold this hearing or make a decision.” “I was bound by Maine election laws and the Constitution,” Bellows explained.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits former officials from holding public office if they swore an oath to the Constitution and subsequently “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.” After the Civil War, the clause was drafted to prevent unrepentant former Confederates from taking office in the newly reunited states.
Trump’s campaign has stated that it will immediately appeal Bellows’ ruling to Maine Superior Court, the state’s highest trial court. The provision requires the court to rule quickly, with a decision on whether to uphold or reverse Bellows’ ruling due by Jan. 17.
That ruling could then be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bellows will be represented in court by Maine’s attorney general, Aaron Frey, who is also a Democrat. Trump will be represented by his attorneys.
Meanwhile, judges in other states have sided with Trump, with recent decisions in Michigan, Arizona, and Minnesota supporting his right to be on the ballot.
Given that contradiction, officials are seeking comprehensive guidance from the United States Supreme Court on the 14th Amendment question, rather than a narrow finding on Colorado alone, which is expected to reach the justices first.
“When you combine the Colorado decision with the Maine decision, it is clear that these decisions will keep popping up… until there is final and decisive guidance from the United States Supreme Court,” wrote Rick Hasen, a preeminent election law specialist and professor at UCLA’s Law School.
Republicans, understandably, blasted Bellows’ move, while some Democrats, but not all, applauded it.
“Maine voters should decide who wins the election — not a Secretary of State chosen by the Legislature,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in a statement.
Maine is unique in that the secretary of state and attorney general are appointed by the state Legislature rather than by voters or the governor. Democrats currently dominate both chambers of the legislature.
At least one Republican lawmaker in Maine is planning to impeach Bellows over her decision, though it is unlikely to succeed in the Democratic legislature.
Rep. Jared Golden, a moderate Democrat who represents Maine’s rural 2nd Congressional District, which Trump won twice, said he voted to impeach Trump and does not want him re-elected, but he still disagrees with Bellows’ choice.
“Until he is found guilty of the crime of insurrection, he should be allowed on the ballot,” Golden said in a statement.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-wing organization extensively involved in efforts to disqualify Trump in Colorado and other states, applauded Bellows’ decision in Maine.
However, it also accepted that the matter will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 6-3 majority.
CREW formally requested that the Supreme Court hear the Colorado case as soon as possible in a new petition. The group requested a judgment by February so that it could go into effect before mail-in voting in most Republican presidential primaries began.
“This motion seeks to expedite the Court’s consideration … so that the important question of Trump’s eligibility can be resolved by this Court before most primary voters cast their ballots,” the lawyers for CREW stated in their brief.
“[F]ast-approaching deadlines require quick resolution of all petitions for certiorari and, if granted, of the merits so that primary voters will know whether Trump is disqualified.”