Maine Secretary of State to Appeal Ruling on Her Decision to Exclude Trump From Ballot

Maine’s top election official said on Friday she intends to appeal the ruling by a state Superior Court judge this week that placed on hold her decision to exclude former President Donald J. Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot.

In a statement, the official, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, said she welcomed the guidance of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to hear arguments on a similar case on Feb. 8. But in the meantime, she said, she will seek the input of Maine’s highest court.

“I know both the constitutional and state authority questions are of grave concern to many,” Ms. Bellows wrote in a short statement on Friday. “This appeal ensures that Maine’s highest court has the opportunity to weigh in now, before ballots are counted, promoting trust in our free, safe and secure elections.”

Ms. Bellows, a Democrat elected by the State Legislature, ruled on Dec. 28 that Mr. Trump did not qualify for the state ballot in Maine because he engaged in insurrection by encouraging the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The 14th Amendment disqualifies government officials who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.

Her decision made Maine the second state to bar him from the ballot, after a Colorado court reached the same conclusion. Similar ballot challenges have been filed in at least 35 states; many remain unresolved though the primary season is already underway.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump appealed Ms. Bellows’s decision to the state’s Superior Court, arguing that her finding was biased and that she lacked authority to bar him from the ballot. Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy did not endorse or reverse Ms. Bellows’s decision in her court order on Wednesday but ordered the secretary of state to issue a new decision after the U.S. Supreme Court makes its ruling.

The Republican primaries in both Maine and Colorado are scheduled for March 5, known as Super Tuesday because many states hold primaries that day; the deadline for Maine to mail ballots to voters overseas is Saturday. Because Ms. Bellows’s decision to exclude Mr. Trump was placed on hold, first by her own ruling and then by the court, the ballots printed to date include Mr. Trump’s name, her office confirmed.

Ethan Strimling, a former mayor of Portland who was among the voters who challenged Mr. Trump’s eligibility for the Maine ballot, said he supported Ms. Bellows’s plan to appeal the Superior Court ruling and seek guidance elsewhere.

“The question has to be answered,” he said.

Nicholas F. Jacobs, an assistant professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, saw little potential benefit in the appeal. Given the complex and unprecedented process now unfolding, Maine voters “are already in a precarious position, and will remain in such a position until the Supreme Court reaches its decision,” he wrote by email.

“The only thing we can be sure of is that, come Super Tuesday, Mainers are going to be even more confused about whether their vote counts,” he added.

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