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A letter to the Maine Secretary of State

February 16, 2024

This piece represents the opinion of the author .
Lauren Russler

In December of 2023, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows ruled that Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the January 6 Capitol incident violated the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment, thereby disqualifying him from the Maine Republican primary ballot. A few weeks later, Bellows explained her decision while visiting Professor of Government Michael Franz’s “Campaigns and Elections” class, claiming that she felt obligated to act on constitutional grounds. Bellows repeatedly insisted that she based her ruling exclusively on the law and the evidence presented to her.

I, however, am not convinced. Although I am staunchly anti-Trump, I was deeply disturbed when I learned that the state of Maine—a state I have grown to love throughout my three years as a Bowdoin student—had moved to disenfranchise its voters in such an egregious manner. What follows is an open letter to Secretary Bellows, in which I criticize her decision to remove Donald Trump from the ballot.


Secretary Bellows,


Every American generation has lived through its own generational historical event that forever altered the trajectory of U.S. politics. Every baby boomer remembers where they were when they learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, every millennial has images of the 9/11 attacks burned into their minds and now, every member of Generation Z remembers how they felt when they learned that the United States Capitol Building was under siege on January 6, 2021. Not everyone in this country must agree, but in my view, January 6 was the closest our republic has come to falling since the American Civil War—not necessarily because of the events themselves, but because of the disparity in perceptions of reality they exposed within this country. In his pursuit to overturn the 2020 election, Donald Trump created and peddled a dangerous alternative reality that took root across vast swaths of the American political psyche. As Abraham Lincoln said of the “slave state” and “free state” divide that ravaged antebellum America, quoting the Bible: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Trump had once again “divided the house”; at the time, I feared that January 6 was just the tip of the iceberg.

However, Ms. Bellows, when you try to fight fire with fire, you just end up burning the house down. Although we likely agree that Trump has demonstrated a shocking level of disregard for our constitution and electoral system throughout his political career and should never again hold the presidency, you seem to have forgotten that a significant portion of Maine voters do not feel the same way. Thus far, Trump has not been convicted of insurrection by a court of law and was acquitted by the Senate on charges of “incitement of insurrection” in his second impeachment trial. In your decision, you acknowledge these facts, but still state that “I am obligated to assess the record before me and make a determination based on the preponderance of the evidence.” Maybe I misunderstand your role within the legal system of the state of Maine, but to effectively disenfranchise the Republican voters of Maine by making your own isolated decision demonstrates a horrifying level of disrespect not only for our legal system, but for democracy at large. Everyone knows what happened on January 6, but a significant percentage of voters in this state still want Donald Trump to be our president. Given that Trump’s acquittal effectively leaves to voters the question of whether he committed insurrection, you are essentially telling Maine voters that they do not get to make that decision because you know better. Many of your fellow Democrats have claimed that Donald Trump’s actions qualify as fascism, and, to a degree, I am inclined to agree. However, if a state-elected official effectively convicting the leading Republican presidential candidate of a crime and removing him from the ballot is not considered fascist, then I do not know what would be. If you really believe that “democracy is sacred,” as you state in your decision, then let the people decide. But by overriding our democratic electoral process in this manner, you are no better than Trump.

Jackson Bradford is a member of the Class of 2025.



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