Top Maine election official disqualifies Trump from 2024 primary ballot

Former president barred from ballot over his alleged role in inciting 2021 Capitol riot

Donald Trump, who was president at the time, delivers a speech at the White House in November 2020. AFP
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Maine’s top election official on Thursday disqualified Donald Trump from the state ballot in the 2024 US presidential primary election, becoming the second state to bar the former president for his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, concluded that Mr Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, 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 to stop Congress from certifying the vote, Reuters reported.

Ms Bellows suspended her decision until the state supreme court ruled on the matter.

The decision came after a group of former Maine lawmakers said that Mr Trump should be disqualified based on a provision of the US Constitution that bars people from holding office if they engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” after previously swearing an oath to the country.

The move is a significant victory for critics of Mr Trump, who say they're trying to enforce a constitutional provision designed to block anti-democratic insurrectionists from holding positions of power.

“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Ms Bellows wrote in a statement.

“Democracy is sacred … I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the 14th Amendment. 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 is likely to add to pressure on the US Supreme Court to resolve questions about Mr Trump’s eligibility nationwide under the constitutional provision known as Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment was passed after the US Civil War and Section 3 aimed to keep former confederates from serving in government.

Colorado’s top court also cited the same constitutional provision in disqualifying Mr Trump from the state primary ballot earlier in December, making him the first candidate in US history to be deemed ineligible for the presidency for engaging in insurrection.

The former president has vowed to appeal the Colorado ruling to the Supreme Court and criticised ballot challenges as “undemocratic". The Colorado Republican Party filed its own Supreme Court appeal on Wednesday.

Trump disqualified from standing for President in Colorado - video

Trump disqualified from standing for President in Colorado

Trump disqualified from standing for President in Colorado

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 an appeal on Mr Trump's eligibility to hold office.

Mr Trump is facing a series of indictments in both a federal case and in Georgia for his alleged role in trying to overturn the 2020 election but he has not been charged with insurrection related to the January 6 attack.

He is currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024.

Lawyers for Mr Trump 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.

A ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Colorado case may resolve the issue nationwide. The court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices nominated by Mr Trump.

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Updated: December 29, 2023, 6:35 AM