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Second state bars Trump from US presidential primary ballot over Capitol riots

todayDecember 29, 2023 1

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Second state bars Trump from US presidential primary ballot over Capitol riots

Maine’s top election official has disqualified Donald Trump from the state ballot in next year’s US presidential primary election – making it the second state to bar the former president over the Capitol riots.

Maine secretary of state Shenna Bellows ruled that Mr Trump 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 on 6 January 2021.

“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Ms Bellows wrote in her 34-page decision, which follows Colorado’s banning of the former president earlier in December.

“I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”

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

It will likely add to pressure on the US Supreme Court to resolve questions about Mr Trump’s eligibility nationwide under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone who swore an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it from holding office.

The Maine case, just like the Colorado case, will almost certainly wind its way up to the Supreme Court

This is an indicator of what the coming year will look like. Court cases across the land with Donald Trump at their heart.

It’s a hint of chaotic twists and turns in America’s political journey which are impossible to predict. But don’t read too much into it, yet.

Maine is the second state to bar him from their state ballot, following Colorado. They are, for the moment at least, outliers though.

Most courts have sided with Mr Trump in citizen-led cases brought to try to disqualify him. Recent cases in Michigan, Arizona and Minnesota all went in the former president’s favour.

The Maine case, just like the Colorado case, will almost certainly wind its way up to the Supreme Court of the land in Washington DC which already looks set to determine so many aspects of the 2024 race.

Even before that, Mr Trump’s team can appeal the Maine secretary of state’s decision at an appeals court in Maine. So there is a long way to go here.

Despite that though – these decisions and the headlines they generate only serve to rile Mr Trump’s supporters, and many Republicans more widely, underlining the view that the so-called establishment is out to get Mr Trump.

For the Democratic Party, there is huge jeopardy here. The optics of trying to take their opponent out through the courts, however valid the case may or may not be, doesn’t look good. The political atmosphere in America is just too febrile.

Mr 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 6 January attack.

His lawyers 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 Trump campaign said it would file an objection to the “atrocious” decision made by Maine’s secretary of state.

“We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter,” campaign spokesman Steven Cheung added in a statement.

On 19 December, Colorado became the first state to disqualify Mr Trump from its primary ballot, making him the first candidate in US history to be deemed ineligible for the presidency for engaging in insurrection.

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Colorado bars Trump from ballot

Mr Trump has vowed to appeal the Colorado ruling to the Supreme Court.

Read more:
All you need to know about Trump’s legal labyrinth
After removal from the Colorado ballot, what happens next?

Similar attempts to disqualify Mr 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 Mr Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot.

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Maine is rated as likely Democratic by non-partisan election forecasters, meaning that President Joe Biden is expected to win the state.

But Mr Trump captured one electoral vote from Maine in both the 2016 and 2020 elections due to an unusual set-up that allows the state to split its four Electoral College votes.

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

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