U.S Election

Maine judge delays Trump ballot decision until Supreme Court ruling

Author: Patrick Marley Source: The Washington Post
January 17, 2024 at 15:56
Former president Donald Trump, seen here Monday after the Iowa caucuses, will wait a little longer to find out if his name will appear on Maine's primary ballot. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Former president Donald Trump, seen here Monday after the Iowa caucuses, will wait a little longer to find out if his name will appear on Maine's primary ballot. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Courts have allowed Trump’s name to appear on the ballots in Colorado and Maine while he pursues appeals
A Maine judge on Wednesday put off deciding whether Donald Trump’s name can appear on that state’s primary ballot, saying the Supreme Court needs to rule on the issue first in a similar case out of Colorado.

The ruling sent the case back to Maine’s secretary of state and put the case on hold. It came amid a nationwide push from Trump’s critics to prevent the former president from running for office again.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution bars from office those who engaged in insurrection after swearing an oath to uphold the Constitution. The amendment was ratified in 1868, and the clause was used initially to keep former Confederates from returning to power after the Civil War.

Trump’s critics have cited the measure in lawsuits arguing Trump is banned from office because of his behavior before and during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Colorado’s top court last month ruled Trump should be taken off the primary ballot there, and a week later Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) reached the same conclusion.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Colorado case and will hear arguments in it on Feb. 8. Its ruling on the issue is likely to apply to all states.

Trump separately appealed the Maine case to state court, and Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy on Wednesday ruled the challenge should go back to Bellows in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to take the Colorado case. She ordered Bellows to hold off on issuing a new decision until after the Supreme Court issues its ruling.

“Put simply, the United States Supreme Court’s acceptance of the Colorado case changes everything about the order in which these issues should be decided, and by which court,” Murphy wrote in her decision. “And while it is impossible to know what the Supreme Court will decide, hopefully it will at least clarify what role, if any, state decision-makers, including secretaries of state and state judicial officers, play in adjudicating claims of disqualification brought under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

After Bellows issues a decision, the losing side can take the issue back to state court.

Legal scholars say a final resolution of the issue is needed quickly now that presidential nominating contests are underway. Iowa held its caucuses on Monday, and New Hampshire will hold its primary next week. Colorado and Maine are among several states to hold their primaries on March 5, which is also known as Super Tuesday.

Courts have allowed Trump’s name to appear on the ballots in Colorado and Maine while he pursues appeals.

The two cases are part of a wave of litigation over the issue around the country. The efforts have been unsuccessful elsewhere, with the top courts in Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon allowing Trump to remain on the ballot. Challenges in Illinois, Massachusetts and other states are pending.

Trump has maintained Jan. 6 was not an insurrection and argued he did not engage in the attack. He has also contended Section 3 applies to other offices but not the presidency.

The lawsuits have sparked a countermove from Trump’s supporters, who contend President Biden should not be allowed to run if the decisions against Trump stand. Last week, four voters in Illinois asked the state elections board to prevent Biden from running because they maintain he has given aid to foreign enemies with his border policies.

By 
Patrick Marley writes about voting issues in the Upper Midwest for The Washington Post. He previously covered the Wisconsin Capitol for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Twitter
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