Trump appeals Maine decision to boot him from ballot and he’s expected to appeal in Colorado. What that means and what’s next.
Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday appealed a decision made by Maine’s secretary of state that bars him from appearing on the state’s primary ballot, citing his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The state’s top election official says his conduct violates a so-called insurrection clause in the U.S. Constitution.
Trump is also expected to imminently file his own appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court over a Colorado decision that would also keep him off the primary ballot in that state. The Colorado and Maine decisions only apply to these states.
Pressure is mounting on the nation’s high court to quickly take up these issues regarding the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner ahead of the primaries in Maine and Colorado on March 5.
What does the U.S. Constitution say?
The so-called insurrection clause, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, bars anyone who once took an oath to uphold the Constitution — like members of Congress, the military and federal and state offices — and “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” from holding public office.
The provision also says if someone is found to be disqualified to serve, Congress can overturn that decision with a two-thirds majority vote.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. It was intended to prevent those who held roles in the Confederacy from becoming a member of Congress or being elected to other offices.
What happened with the Maine decision?
Last week, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, determined that Trump incited an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which disqualified him from holding office again under Section 3. In Maine, the secretary of state is responsible for preparing ballots for a presidential primary election.
By Maine law, Bellows had to make a decision after a group of former state lawmakers, which included some Republicans, petitioned her to remove Trump’s name from the primary ballot, saying the former president should be disqualified under Section 3.
“I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Bellows wrote in her decision. “I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
What happened with the Colorado decision?
Before the Maine decision landed, the Colorado Supreme Court on Dec. 19 reversed a lower court judge’s ruling in a divided 4-3 decision. The state’s lower court concluded that Trump engaged in insurrection on Jan. 6, but said that as president, he was not an “officer of the United States,” as described in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, and is therefore not disqualified from appearing on the state’s primary ballot.
The state’s high court’s majority opinion said, “We conclude that because President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Secretary to list President Trump as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot. Therefore, the Secretary may not list President Trump’s name on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, nor may she count any write-in votes cast for him.”
Both decisions in Maine and Colorado are paused in order to let the appeals process play out. For now, Trump’s name is technically still on the primary ballots in both states.
On Tuesday, Trump’s legal team appealed to the Maine Superior Court — not the U.S. Supreme Court just yet. In the court filing, Trump’s lawyers wrote that the decision was “the product of a process infected by bias and pervasive lack of due process.”
By Maine law, the state’s Superior Court has 20 days following Bellows’s decision to issue its own ruling, which brings us to Jan. 17. Trump’s legal team would have until Jan. 20 to appeal any decision by Maine’s Superior Court. The issue would then go to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile in Colorado, the state’s Republican Party on Dec. 27 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the issue of Colorado booting Trump from the primary ballot. With this appeal filed, Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold said Trump will be included on the state’s primary ballot unless the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Colorado’s Supreme Court ruling, or rejects to hear the case at all. Trump is expected to file an appeal within the coming days.
If either case lands before the U.S. Supreme Court, it would be the first time that the nation’s highest court could rule on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Some of the lingering legal questions around Section 3 are whether it applies to the U.S. presidency and whether the provision is self-executing, or if Congress needs to act in some way.