Maine Lawmakers Reject GOP Effort to Impeach Election Official

Maine Lawmakers Reject GOP Effort to Impeach Election Official

Democrats who control the Maine Legislature on Tuesday rejected a Republican effort to impeach the state’s top election official for her decision to remove former President Donald Trump from the state ballot over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Maine House voted 80-60 against the resolution targeting Shenna Bellows, the first secretary of state in history to block someone from running for president by invoking the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause.

Bellows, who watched the entire proceeding from the gallery, vowed to abide by any legal ruling on her decision to keep Trump off Maine’s March 5 primary ballot, which is under appeal in Maine Superior Court.

Republicans are furious over Bellows’ conclusion that the GOP front-runner shouldn’t be on the ballot. They argued that her decision disenfranchised the more than 300,000 voters in Maine who chose Trump in the last election.

GOP Rep. Michael Soboleski, of Phillips, called the secretary’s action “election interference of the highest order” and a fellow Republican, Rep. James Thorne, of Carmel, said it “does nothing but further divide the political banner between the parties, and indeed the people of the state of Maine.”

“There has been no conviction in a court of law. She is not a judge. She is not a jury. And I believe that the people feel absolutely disenfranchised,” added Rep. Katrina Smith, a Republican from Palermo.

But they had faced long odds in seeking retribution against the Democrat.

The proposal called for a panel to investigate Bellows’ actions and report back to the 151-member House. If the proposal had moved forward — and there had been an impeachment vote — then there would have been a trial in the 35-member Senate, where Democrats also have a majority.

Democrat Rep. Kevin O’Connell, of Brewer, said Bellows “faithfully discharged her oath of office.” He called her “an honorable person” who should not be removed from office for “simply doing her job.”

“You might disagree with her decision, and some folks do. But every government official has an obligation to follow the law and fulfill their oath to the Constitution,” he said.

Afterward, Bellows said she stood by her assessment that the impeachment effort was “political theater” and that she acted as required by state law after Trump’s candidacy was challenged.

“If people disagree with the decision, the proper venue for resolving that disagreement is with the courts. And indeed Mr. Trump has appealed to Superior Court. If people disagree with the authority delegated to the secretary under Maine election law, the proper venue is for the legislature to amend the law,” Bellows said after the vote.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. Some legal scholars say the post-Civil War clause applies to Trump for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and encouraging his backers to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

So far, Colorado is the only other state to bar Trump from the ballot. That decision by the Colorado Supreme Court is currently under appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked a judge to pause his appeal of Bellow’s decision to allow time for a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could render it moot. But the attorney general’s office, which is representing Bellows, objected to the effort to delay the legal process in Maine.

Bellows, 48, is Maine’s 50th secretary of state and the first woman to hold the office, beginning in the role in January 2021 after being elected by lawmakers.

The former state senator also served as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine from 2005 to 2013 and worked on successful drives to legalize same-sex marriage, same-day voter registration and ranked choice voting.

While Maine has just four electoral votes, it’s one of two states to split them, so the state could have outsized importance in what’s expected to be a close presidential race this year. Trump earned one of Maine’s electors when he was elected in 2016 and again in 2020 when he lost reelection.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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