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Former President Trump has been removed from the primary ballot in Maine

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Maine has followed Colorado's lead in barring Donald Trump from its primary ballot. Maine's Democratic Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, ruled last night that the former president is not qualified for office because of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. A few hours later, the top elections official in California announced that California's ballot will include Trump's name. Michigan's Supreme Court also ruled in favor of Trump this week. David Becker joins us now to talk about this. He leads the Center for Election Innovation & Research. David, Maine's decision - how does it compare to the legal reasoning that justices used in Colorado?

DAVID BECKER: It's very similar to the reasoning that the Colorado Supreme Court used. She basically found after complaints were filed by Maine voters, which required her to render a decision as to Donald Trump's qualifications on the ballot - she found that Donald Trump had engaged in an insurrection based on his actions in the aftermath of the 2020 election leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and that therefore he was disqualified from the presidency under the 14th Amendment.

MARTÍNEZ: By what process does she make that decision or come to that determination?

BECKER: So after the complaints are filed, she has to set a hearing date, which she did. That hearing was a few weeks ago. All the parties were able to present evidence to her. She then took that evidence into account and rendered a decision. And importantly, like the Colorado Supreme Court, she stayed that decision pending judicial review. And so there's going to be an opportunity for Donald Trump to petition the Maine state courts to allow him to be on the ballot, and eventually, presumably, that could get to the U.S. Supreme Court, just like the Colorado case appears to be.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, David, the argument against this decision is that Donald Trump has not been charged with insurrection. But could this be like being found responsible in a civil case, even without a criminal conviction, like O.J. Simpson, for example?

BECKER: Yeah. That's right. So the 14th Amendment specifically says engages in insurrection. It doesn't say convicted of insurrection. And as recently as 2022, it's been applied to an individual who took part in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, even though that individual was only convicted of criminal trespass, not insurrection at that time. The - as opposed to, like, a crime where someone might lose liberty, this is the right to appear on a ballot. There might be a different standard applied here. But it really highlights the fact that in this decentralized way we hold elections with different laws all over the country that apply to ballot access, it's really important for the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on this. They are the ultimate arbiter of what the United States Constitution says.

MARTÍNEZ: So if Colorado's decision gets struck down, Maine becomes like a domino. It gets struck down too pretty much.

BECKER: Yeah. I mean, it's - we're going to have to see how this plays out obviously. We've never had this happen. And the Maine secretary of state's decision acknowledges that, that this is a - the first time a presidential candidate has been removed for having violated the 14th Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has not ruled on a case like this before. The 14th Amendment exists for a reason. It's still on the books. It's important. It's been applied as recently as last year. And of course, the former president's actions really call into question as to whether or not he, as an individual, as a candidate, did violate the 14th Amendment by engaging in an insurrection and therefore would be disqualified from the presidency.

MARTÍNEZ: If the U.S. Supreme Court decides this matter for the entire country, does it even make sense, then, for states to even do this, even attempt to decide whether or not the president, the former president, is qualified based on the 14th Amendment clause?

BECKER: Well, because of the way that these cases ultimately get to the United States Supreme Court, you can't just file a case in the United States Supreme Court and ask them to rule on this. We need some of these cases to work their way up through the various judicial systems in the states and hopefully put some pressure on the Supreme Court to rule as quickly as possible. It's essential that a clear ruling is issued by the United States Supreme Court as soon as possible, not just for the voters but also for election officials who are starting to print ballots up for the primaries and also for the Republican Party that needs to know whether or not it has a candidate that is qualified to serve as president of the United States.

MARTÍNEZ: And what's the reason why maybe the Supreme Court hasn't done this yet? Or do you think they're waiting maybe to see how other states handle this?

BECKER: Well, so far the first case, you know, worked its way up. There's been a petition to the Supreme Court. It just got filed very, very recently. Presumably President Trump - former President Trump will issue another petition, and that will be heard by the United States Supreme Court. I have a lot of confidence that they're going to recognize the urgency of this and come to a decision fairly soon, so the entire country can know whether or not Donald Trump is a qualified candidate.

MARTÍNEZ: David Becker is executive director for the Center of Election Innovation & Research. David, thanks.

BECKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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