Maine blocks Trump from state’s 2024 primary ballot

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Maine has become the second state to disqualify Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot, claiming the former president is ineligible to run due to his involvement in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Shenna Bellows, the Maine Secretary of State, said in a filing on Thursday that the former president contributed to riots at the Capitol by using false claims of election fraud and then directing supporters there when Congress was set to certify the 2020 election results.

She added that Mr Trump was “aware of the likelihood for violence“ and “at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it.”

“The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multi-month effort to delegitimise a democratic election, and then chose to light a match,” Ms Bellows said in the filing.

Ms Bellows said due to the seriousness of the lawsuit she would suspend the effect of her decision until the Superior Court rules on an appeal.

Mr Trump has five days to bring action to the state’s superior court. A spokesperson for the former president said it plans to “quickly file a legal objection in state court to prevent this atrocious decision in Maine from taking effect.”

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows speaks at an event, Jan. 4, 2023, in Augusta, Maine. (AP)
Secretary of State Shenna Bellows speaks at an event, Jan. 4, 2023, in Augusta, Maine. (AP)

Maine is the latest state to rule in the fight to keep Mr Trump off the ballot based on Section Three of the 14th Amendment, known as the “insurrection” clause.

Under the provision, no person may hold office who “engaged in insurrection or who has “given aid or comfort to the enemies” of the US.

Several individuals and organisations have filed lawsuits in at least 16 states trying to remove the former president from the primary ballot due to his alleged efforts in fueling the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6.

So far only Colorado has ruled to disqualify the former president, and current 2024 Republican frontrunner, from a primary ballot. Though, the US Supreme Court could soon decide if Mr Trump is ineligible for the presidency for launching an insurrection – the unprecedented question at the heart of the growing number of lawsuits across the US.

In Maine, two residents and a group of elected officials filed three separate challenges to Mr Trump’s ballot eligibility. The state’s protocol allows for the challenges to be heard by the secretary of state first.

Ms Bellows reviewed arguments earlier this month. Following the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to remove Mr Trump from the state’s primary ballot, she invited Mr Trump as well as the plaintiffs to file briefs addressing the impact of the case.

She was initially slated to rule in the case last week but extended it by a few days to give the parties additional time to submit briefs and review them.

Despite this, Trump campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, predictably blasted the decision calling Ms Bellows a  “virulent leftist and a hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat who has decided to interfere in the presidential election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden.”

Mr Trump and his allies have repeatedly amplified a conspiracy theory that the multiple lawsuits and criminal indictments against him are part of a wider effort directed by the president to keep Mr Trump out of office.

In her decision, Ms Bellows said she “did not reach this conclusion lightly” and recognised the unprecedented nature of the case but said it was part of her duty to determine when candidates were eligible for office.

“The events of January 6, 2021 were unprecedented and tragic. They were an attack not only upon the Capitol and government officials, but also an attack on the rule of law. The evidence here demonstrates that they occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing president,” Ms Bellows wrote.

“The US Consitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundation of our government,” she added.

Alex Woodward contributed to this report.