Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in her Augusta office on Friday, the morning after announcing her decision to bar former President Donald Trump from the presidential primary ballot in Maine. At left is a portrait of Frances Perkins, U.S. labor secretary under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a federal Cabinet post. At right is a portrait of U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican who was the first woman to represent Maine in Congress. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said Friday that Maine’s election laws, together with the evidence presented by challengers, made her decision clear that former President Donald Trump should be excluded from the March primary ballot.

“It was very clear the events of Jan. 6, 2021 were unprecedented, tragic and an insurrection under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” Bellows said in an interview the morning after announcing her decision.

“Furthermore, the evidence presented at the hearing demonstrated that the events of Jan. 6 occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing president, Mr. Trump,” she said.

Maine is the second state to disqualify Trump from the presidential primary ballot after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled him ineligible last week. Efforts to keep Trump off the ballot in other states, such as California and Michigan, have so far failed, but each state has different rules regarding challenges and ballot access.

The rulings by Bellows and by courts and election officials in other states are likely just first steps. A court appeal is expected to be filed in Maine next week and the Colorado case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could have the final word about whether the U.S Constitution disqualifies a Trump candidacy.

Most of the challenges playing out across the country are taking place in courts, though some other secretaries of state have weighed in.


Hours after Bellows’ decision Thursday night, her counterpart in California announced Trump would remain on the ballot there.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber had previously issued a letter in response to a request from the lieutenant governor asking her to “explore every legal option” to keep Trump off the ballot, saying that California law provides for the resolution of ballot challenges by the courts.


Maine election laws spell out a multi-step process for residents to challenge access to the primary ballot via the secretary of state.

The process includes an administrative hearing where challengers and the candidate can present evidence and arguments in support of their case, and a requirement that the secretary of state issue a ruling on the validity of the challenge.

Bellows has been the target of intense criticism for her decision, especially from Republican officials in Maine. Two lawmakers, Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, and Rep. Mike Soboleski, R-Phillips, are calling for Bellows to be impeached.


U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said on the social media platform X Thursday night that, “Maine voters should decide who wins the election – not a secretary of state chosen by the Legislature.

“The Secretary of State’s decision would deny thousands of Mainers the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice, and it should be overturned.”

In some states, ballot challenges are filed directly to the courts. But Bellows, a Democrat, said that under the process outlined in Maine law, she was required to make a decision after the challenges were filed. “There are no other mechanisms of which I am aware by which a Maine voter can challenge the qualifications of a candidate for office,” she said.

The evidence pointed to the need for Trump to be disqualified, she said.

Four of five challengers argued Trump was ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that a person may not hold office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the (constitution), or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” and Bellows agreed with them.

“Under Maine election law and my oath to the constitution, I am not permitted to place candidates on the ballot who do not meet the qualifications for the office they seek,” she said.


Secretary of State Shenna Bellows outside the State House complex in Augusta on Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


Many states leave it up to political parties to determine which candidates will be on ballots, and it’s not unusual for an unqualified candidate to make it on to the primary ballot, said Charles Stewart, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the school’s Election Data and Science Lab.

He said he wasn’t familiar with the reasoning behind the California secretary of state’s decision, but that in many places where secretaries of state have weighed in, they’ve said that for primary nominations it’s not the job of the secretary of state to determine who’s on the ballot.

Bellows’ decision could still be reversed in the courts, and Trump’s campaign has already said it will appeal. Appeals are due in Kennebec County Superior Court by Jan. 5, according to the secretary of state’s office. A court clerk said Friday afternoon near the close of business that they had not yet received any appeals.

How Bellows’ decision could impact ballot access disputes in other states is unclear, especially because the process differs from state to state.

“In general, states have control over ballot access and every state has different election laws and different ballot access requirements,” Bellows said. “My decision was grounded in Maine election law, because Maine election law requires me to hold a hearing and issue a decision to ensure every candidate that appears on the ballot is qualified for the office they seek under the Constitution.”


Both Maine and Colorado – the two states that so far have disqualified Trump – require candidates to certify that they are qualified for the ballot, though not every state has such a requirement, Stewart said.

“Certainly in the states that require candidates to be qualified to get on the primary ballot, this will embolden Democratic secretaries of state to rule the same way as Maine and Colorado did,” he said.

Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University and director of the school’s election law program, said it will be up to states to individually determine how Bellows’ decision could apply to them.

“It’s not binding on any other state, so it’s only whether or not another state would find it persuasive,” Foley said. “I think a good example of how to think about that is how the Maine secretary of state talked about the Colorado decision. She acknowledged the decision, referenced it, but made it clear the Maine decision was independent of the Colorado decision, and that would be true in every state.”


Members of the Colorado high court have faced intense backlash and officials have said they are investigating possible threats against the justices who ruled 4-3 to keep Trump off the ballot there.


Bellows declined to comment Friday when asked if she has received threats or if she is taking any extra security precautions following her decision. A post on her X page about the decision had more than 5,000 comments Friday afternoon, many of which were critical of it.

“You’re a con artist!” read one comment. “How many Mainers’ signatures are required to remove the arrogant fascist Shenna Bellows from office?” read another.

Bellows’ Instagram page was filled with similar comments, many of them on her most recent post – a picture taken with President Biden when he visited an Auburn manufacturing plant over the summer.

Capitol Police referred a question about whether they have received any reports of threats against Bellows in the wake of her decision to the secretary of state’s office. The department said it has increased security for the secretary of state but declined to elaborate further.

The secretary of state came under fire from Trump and his attorneys earlier this week in a last-minute filing accusing her of having prejudged the facts of the case as evidenced by past social media posts Bellows made describing the events of Jan. 6 as an insurrection and saying Trump should have been impeached.

“My decision was based exclusively on the evidence presented to me at the hearing, and was in no way influenced by my political affiliation or personal views about the events of Jan. 6, 2021,” Bellows said Friday.

The decision has since thrust her into the national spotlight. She deflected when asked Friday about the weight of the ruling and what it felt like to be charged with making a decision that was watched around the country.

“My role in this is to consider the constitution and the rule of law, and that’s my only consideration,” Bellows said.

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