In a twist that could reshape the 2024 presidential race, Maine finds itself at a pivotal crossroads. Shenna Bellows, Maine’s Secretary of State, stands poised to make a historic decision that could disqualify former President Donald Trump from appearing on Maine’s presidential primary ballot. This isn’t just about one state; it’s about setting a precedent in American politics.
While Colorado’s decision to boot Trump off the ballot might not tilt the scales in a solidly blue state, Maine’s move could be a game-changer. Known for its unique approach of proportionally splitting its electoral votes, Maine’s decision carries significant weight. Trump, who snagged one of Maine’s electoral votes in both 2016 and 2020, could face a real setback if barred from the ballot.
The drama unfolds against the backdrop of Super Tuesday, with Maine’s primary scheduled for March 5 alongside 15 other states. The delay in Bellows’ decision, initially set for December 22, reflects the complexity and gravity of this issue, heightened by the recent Colorado ruling.
The crux of the matter hinges on the 14th Amendment’s Section 3, a post-Civil War addition that disqualifies anyone who has engaged in insurrection against the U.S. Constitution from holding office. The question is whether a state official like Bellows has the authority to make such a determination or if it’s a matter for Congress or the courts.
This isn’t just a legal debate; it’s deeply personal for many. The Maine challengers, including bipartisan former state legislators Ethan Strimling and Tom Saviello, argue that Trump’s actions surrounding the January 6 Capitol riot disqualify him. They see this as a moral and constitutional imperative to prevent someone they view as a “wanna-be dictator” from running again.
Trump’s defense, led by former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, argues the opposite. They contend that Trump never engaged in insurrection and that state election officials should only consider the basic qualifications for the presidency listed in the Constitution: age, citizenship, and residency.
The situation in Maine reflects a national reckoning. On one side, some see Trump’s actions as a clear violation of the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution. On the other, there are Trump supporters like Heather Sprague, who fiercely defend his right to be on the ballot, viewing any challenge as undemocratic and an attack on their vote.
The historical significance of this decision can’t be overstated. It’s the first time a state election official might disqualify a candidate for federal office under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause. This decision could open the floodgates for similar actions in other states, fundamentally altering the landscape of presidential elections.
Bellows, a Democrat and voting rights advocate, faces a tough decision. She could follow Colorado’s lead or dismiss the challenge, as officials in other states have done, citing procedural grounds. Either way, her decision will likely be challenged, setting the stage for a legal battle with nationwide implications.
As the hearing wrapped up, the conversation turned philosophical. Jamie Kilbreth, the lead attorney for the challengers, argued that allowing a candidate who engaged in insurrection to run would create chaos and mislead voters. Bellows acknowledged the complexity of the decision, highlighting the need for due process and careful consideration.
Maine’s decision isn’t just about Trump or the 2024 election. It’s about the integrity of our democratic process, the enforcement of our Constitution, and the message we send about the consequences of threatening our democracy. In a time when political tensions are high, and the future of our nation hangs in the balance, Maine’s decision will be a critical moment in American history, a test of our commitment to the principles upon which our nation was founded.