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Trump cries 'election interference' after Maine ruling will keep him off the ballot

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Dec. 16 in Durham, N.H.
Reba Saldanha
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Dec. 16 in Durham, N.H.

Updated December 29, 2023 at 2:08 AM ET

Former President Donald Trump won't be on Maine's primary ballot after the state's secretary of state ruled he isn't qualified based on his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, released a 34-page ruling on Thursday evening stating that Trump's primary election petition is "invalid."

"I find the declaration on his candidate form is false because he is not qualified to hold the office of the President under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution]," Bellows wrote in her decision.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, sometimes called the insurrection clause, declares that no one who has engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States can hold state or federal office. It was originally written post-Civil War to prevent Confederate rebels from holding elected office.

The Trump campaign issued a swift response to the ruling, calling 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."

The campaign statement issued by spokesperson Steven Cheung went on to stoke fears about election interference, echoing Trump's false claims about the 2020 election that he lost.

"We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter," Cheung said. "Make no mistake, these partisan election interference efforts are a hostile assault on American democracy."

"We will quickly file a legal objection in state court to prevent this atrocious decision in Maine from taking effect," he added.

The Maine ruling is now one of several recent state decisions declaring whether Trump can appear on a primary ballot. Colorado's Supreme Court said on Dec. 19 he could not, citing the same section of the Constitution. Michigan's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that he can appear on that state's primary ballot because the court there believes it cannot rule on the merits on Trump's candidacy unless and until he is the Republican Party's nominee. In California on Thursday night, the secretary of state included Trump on the primary ballot list of certified presidential candidates for its March 5 presidential primary election.

Trump is expected to challenge Colorado's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Corrected: December 28, 2023 at 11:00 PM CST
A previous version of this article misquoted the decision by Maine's Secretary of State.
Megan Pratz