Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows says she and her staff received hundreds of “threatening, abusive and aggressive communications” in the aftermath of her decision that former President Donald Trump is ineligible for the March primary ballot.

The threats against Secretary of State Shenna Bellows come as election officials nationwide are seeing a rise in threats and harassment. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The department previously said Bellows received threats following her Dec. 28 decision that Trump is not eligible to be on the March 5 Republican primary ballot, but an annual report submitted to lawmakers Thursday provides more information about the backlash as well as information about an unrelated death threat the secretary of state received last May.

It comes as election officials across the country are seeing a rise in threats and harassment. Nearly 1 in 3 election officials has been harassed, abused or threatened in connection with their job, according to an April 2023 report by the Brennan Center for Justice that surveyed nearly 11,000 election workers nationwide.

Bellows’ decision that Trump is ineligible because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection was appealed in Maine Superior Court. But the appeal is on hold because the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a similar dispute over ballot access in Colorado, and the high court’s decision is widely expected to apply to Maine, too.

Though the courts are likely to ultimately decide the issue, Bellows’ ruling sparked outrage among Maine Republican officials, who called for her impeachment or resignation, and an outpouring of angry messages to her office.

“Starting Friday, December 29, 2023, the Department of Secretary of State received hundreds of threatening, abusive and aggressive communications by telephone, email and social media targeting not only me, but also people working for the department and members of my family,” Bellows wrote in her report to the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs.


The Maine Information and Analysis Center, out-of-state agencies and partner agencies in Maine worked together to review the communications and provide “a clear threat picture so investigators could make informed decisions on next steps,” the report said. It also mentions the Dec. 29 swatting incident at Bellows’ home in Manchester that remains under investigation.

Bellows also received an online threat just before Memorial Day last May, suggesting that the holiday would be her “last Memorial Day.”

That threat was investigated by her department’s Division of Enforcement and referred to other authorities who were investigating the same person for threats against other elected officials, the report said.

There was no arrest in the May case, but trespassing and cease harassment notices were issued, Emily Cook, a spokesperson for the secretary of state, said Friday.


The December communications referred to in the report included posts and comments on social media criticizing the secretary of state for the decision, as well as emails that contained profanity or slurs directed at Bellows and her staff or that were disparaging toward employees. There were also more serious messages that used threatening language that were forwarded to police, Cook said.


She said the investigation into the December swatting incident is ongoing and being led by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The bureau, which is part of the secretary of state’s office, has members of law enforcement on its staff and routinely takes the lead on investigations involving election workers and other matters related to the secretary of state.

So-called swatting incidents – false police reports meant to prompt an armed response and frighten or harass someone – have increased nationwide. In Bellows’ case, an anonymous man who knew her address called police and claimed he had broken into her home. State troopers responded and searched the exterior and interior, but nothing suspicious was found. Bellows was not home at the time.

Bellows’ report says the department received no reports in 2023 from municipal officials about threats or harassment while conducting elections, but the report notes that “we did receive some feedback from some clerks that the questions around the confidentiality of threat reports submitted to the secretary of state may limit written submissions of reports to our office.”

The secretary of state is required to keep a record of threats and harassment against public officials conducting elections and to report annually on the number and type of reports it receives.

The newly released report stands in contrast to the 2022 report, which said the department received only two reports of threats to public officials while conducting state or municipal elections that year.

One report from a local election official was referred to law enforcement, but the Office of the Maine Attorney General declined to prosecute it. The other report ended up falling short of conduct that is prohibited by state law, the 2022 report said.

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