Election 2024 Trump

Former President Donald Trump on stage after speaking Saturday during a commit to caucus rally in Clinton, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump is asking a Maine court to put his appeal of the secretary of state’s ruling to disqualify him from the presidential primary ballot on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar case out of Colorado.

Lawyers for Trump filed the request with the Kennebec County Superior Court Monday after previously filing an appeal of Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ decision that Trump violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and would not qualify for the primary ballot.

The U.S. Supreme Court plans to weigh Trump’s appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify him from that state’s ballot.

That case deals with many of the same questions as the Maine case, including whether Trump engaged in insurrection and if that would make him ineligible to run for president under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The issues before the Supreme Court … include federal issues identical to the federal issues raised in this case, the resolution of which may be dispositive of this matter,” a copy of the Maine filing states.

It was unclear Monday when Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy will rule on the request from Trump’s attorneys.


Challengers who have argued that Trump shouldn’t be on Maine’s ballot filed their own paperwork late Monday urging Murphy to reject the request made by Trump.

They said that delaying the Superior Court case would prevent Trump’s name from being removed from the ballot in time for the March 5 primary – if the courts rule in their favor – and could contribute to voter confusion.

“Every extra day of delay in resolving a challenge risks additional confusion because voters will be unsure of which candidates’ votes will be counted and which will not,” states the filing from attorneys Benjamin Gaines and James Kilbreth, who represent Ethan Strimling, Tom Saviello and Kimberly Rosen. “Any departure from the statutory deadlines undermines the state’s important interests and the Legislature’s policy goals.”

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who is named as the respondent in Trump’s appeal, said Monday that her office is working on a response to the filing and that she could not comment on pending litigation in the meantime.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in Augusta in December. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

She already suspended the effect of her decision pending an appeal before the Kennebec County Superior Court and said she would support continuing that stay if there are additional appeals of the Maine case.



But she also pointed out that Maine law has a clear process and timeline for handling challenges to the primary ballot.

“That process starts with the secretary of state, but then it goes to Superior Court and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court,” Bellows said. “That is the process under the law and the Constitution of the United States and we should not deviate from the process and rule of law.”

The timeline says the Superior Court must issue a decision on an appeal within 20 days of the secretary of state’s decision. The secretary of state’s office said previously that the Superior Court would need to rule on the case by Jan. 17.

Murphy laid out a timeline for filing briefs on Friday in order for her to rule by Jan. 17, but Trump’s attorneys said in their filing Monday that order should be vacated. They said state law cannot limit or bar a court’s authority to grant a stay or otherwise manage its docket.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday – three days after the appeal of the Maine case was filed in state court – that it would be taking up the Colorado appeal.

The high court has been asked to look at some more minor and state-specific appeal arguments in the Colorado case, like Trump’s claim that the court there didn’t follow state statutes governing presidential elections.


But most of the issues in the Colorado appeal center on the same questions that arose in Maine over whether Trump engaged in insurrection, and if Section 3 would disqualify him. And it’s widely expected that the ruling on the Colorado dispute also will settle the question in Maine and any other states that might bar Trump from their ballot.

Derek Muller, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, expects the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to base its decision on the merits – rather than questions of procedure or state law specific to Colorado – and issue a ruling that would settle the question of Trump’s eligibility for multiple states.

“I think the more likely outcome is (the court) took the case … to address the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment claim,” Muller said. “And as a result, whatever it holds would be binding precedent on the rest of the states and what they choose to do, and it would certainly affect what’s happening in Maine.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Colorado case on Feb. 8.

Military and overseas voters from Maine can receive their ballots starting Jan. 20, and absentee voters can receive ballots starting Feb. 5. Because Bellows suspended the effect of her decision, it’s likely Trump’s name will be on those ballots while appeals play out.



Bellows said Maine law doesn’t have provisions for adding a candidate to the ballot if they qualify after ballots are printed, but there is a process for how the state should proceed if a candidate is disqualified or dies after ballots are printed.

That process calls for the secretary of state to issue a notice to local election officials to inform voters that the candidate has died or become disqualified, and that votes for them won’t be counted. The notices must be distributed with all absentee ballots and posted in voting booths on Election Day.

Trump’s request for a pause comes as Bellows, a Democrat, has received intense criticism of her decision, particularly from Republicans. The Maine House could take up a resolution from Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, as soon as Tuesday that calls for an investigation into Bellows’ conduct and whether it would be grounds for impeachment.

Andrews says that Bellows should have recused herself from the decision on Trump’s eligibility because she is biased after having supported Joe Biden as an elector to the Electoral College in 2020.

Bellows dismissed the resolution Monday and said lawmakers should instead be focused on keeping Maine’s elections fair and accurate. “This stunt is little more than political theater produced by those who disagree with my decision, dislike my background and are determined to punish election officials for doing their jobs,” she said.

Another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Mike Soboleski of Phillips, who is running for Congress in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, filed a complaint last week with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices on grounds similar to Andrews’. But ethics commission staff said they don’t plan to take up the complaint because it falls outside their jurisdiction, which generally is limited to legislative ethics, campaign finance reporting and lobbyist disclosures.

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