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Democrats say there are options to ensure Biden is on Ohio ballot beyond changing state law

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) talk to reporters at the Statehouse on April 9, 2024.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) talk to reporters at the Statehouse on April 9, 2024.

President Biden could be off the Ohio ballot this fall, according to Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose. He says in a letter to Democrats the date of the national convention in Chicago, now set for Aug. 19-22, needs to move or state lawmakers must change the 90-day candidate deadline in state law by May 9.

But Democrats said they’re working on a solution.

"There are multiple options here, we think. We have been in conversations with many partners, including the Biden campaign and the DNC," said Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). “Looking at all of the options, I don't believe this legislative fix is the only option here, and have entire confidence that Joe Biden will be on the ballot."

But Russo wouldn't speculate on what option might be the resolution to the issue.

Lawmakers moved the 90-day deadline created in 2010 to 60 days when both parties’ conventions were affected in 2012 and in 2020. Both Russo and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) were in the legislature when that second fix was applied for the 2020 presidential election, which was done in the budget that passed in 2019. Republicans have a legislative supermajority and their convention, set for July 15-18 in Milwaukee, is not affected this year.

Russo said the first she'd heard of the situation was on Friday, when LaRose's letter was sent to Ohio Democratic Party chair Liz Walters and some reporters.

"I think he was looking for attention. I think he lost a race— abysmally—and that he got some national news coverage from what I understand, so I guess it served that purpose," said Antonio.

"There's also a question about what is the secretary of state's actual authority," Russo added. "I’ll remind you, the secretary of state often says he doesn't have the authority to do something. This has happened in the past; the ballot boxes, it happened during redistricting with some of our candidates moving."

LaRose's office noted the 90-day deadline has been in place since 2010 and that both major political parties "have well paid attorneys who are capable of advising them on the legal requirements for ballot access." LaRose's spokesman Ben Kindel also said the letter had just been sent because the office had been completing the March primary and was starting the November general election preparations, and when it was noticed that no changes had been made to the DNC bylaws to address Ohio's 90-day deadline, "we reached out and asked for clarification."

Kindel also responded to Antonio's comments this way: "Upholding the law is not a political game. These same people have made it abundantly clear in recent years that laws shouldn’t be ignored or manipulated to influence election outcomes. We’ve reminded them that they’re not in compliance with Ohio’s ballot access laws. They can either point fingers and blame others for their noncompliance, or they can fix it. It’s up to them."

Earlier this year, LaRose shared concerns about Colorado's removal of Republican former President Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot on the grounds that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bans insurrectionists from holding office. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed the state's decision, holding that only Congress can enforce that section of the amendment, not the states.

Alabama has a similar situation. That state has an 82-day deadline, which is Aug. 15. Republican secretary of state Wes Allen told Alabama Democrats in a letter that unless he receives a valid certificate of nomination from the Democratic Party by that date, he'll be unable to certify Biden for the ballot. The Alabama legislature also adjusted its deadline when the conventions would miss the deadline in 2020, as Ohio's did.
Copyright 2024 The Statehouse News Bureau.