Effort to Keep Biden on the Ballot in Ohio Stalls Out Ahead of Deadline

Effort to Keep Biden on the Ballot in Ohio Stalls Out Ahead of Deadline


A partisan battle in Ohio has stalled an effort by state lawmakers to ensure that President Biden is on the ballot in the state this November, teeing up what could be an expensive and protracted legal battle ahead of this year’s election.

Ohio was one of three states that had warned the Democratic Party that Mr. Biden could be left off the ballot because the Democratic National Convention would take place after certification deadlines for presidential nominees. This is usually a minor procedural issue, and states have almost always offered a quick solution to ensure that major presidential candidates remain on the ballot.

Alabama, for example, resolved the issue with little fanfare last week, when the State Legislature overwhelmingly passed a law granting an extension to the deadline accommodating the late date of the Democratic convention, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 19. Election officials in Washington State also signaled that their state would accept a provisional certification of Mr. Biden’s nomination.

Legislation similar to the law adopted in Alabama was proposed in the Republican-dominated General Assembly in Ohio but stalled out ahead of a Thursday deadline given by Frank LaRose, the Republican secretary of state, to change the law. Mr. LaRose has said that the legislature could still resolve the issue with an emergency vote.

Republicans in the Ohio Senate advanced a bill on Wednesday that would resolve the issue but attached a rider that would ban foreign money in state ballot initiatives, over the objections of Senate Democrats. The House speaker, Jason Stephens, who is fending off a monthslong effort by some Republicans to oust him and needs support from Democratic lawmakers in the minority to stay in power, did not take up the measure, and the legislature adjourned with no solution in place.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said that Mr. Biden would be on the ballot in all 50 states.

“Election after election, states across the country have acted in line with the bipartisan consensus and taken the necessary steps to ensure the presidential nominees from both parties will be on the ballot,” Mr. Lutvak said, pointing to efforts by states to resolve similar issues in past elections. Ohio passed temporary extensions to its certification deadline for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012 and for President Donald J. Trump in 2020.

At the heart of the issue is a partisan fight over donations by foreign nationals in support of ballot initiatives in Ohio, which Republicans in the state blamed for the passage last year of a constitutional amendment enshrining access to abortion in the state. Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, is a major donor to one of the progressive groups that campaigned in Ohio in support of the measure, and Republicans supporting the measure have repeatedly singled out Mr. Wyss as a target of the ban.

Republicans in Ohio have said that passing the ban on foreign donations is the price that Democrats will have to pay to ensure that Mr. Biden is on the ballot in the state.

“Democrats would rather protect Hansjörg Wyss than get Joe Biden on the statewide ballot,” Mr. LaRose, the Ohio secretary of state, who first warned Democrats of the deadline issue, said in a statement on Thursday.

Added Mr. LaRose, who finished third in the state’s Senate Republican primary this spring: “I hope the House does the right thing and takes action soon.”

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Stetson University in Florida who focuses on election law, said the Biden campaign could sue the state to put Mr. Biden on the ballot. She pointed to the Supreme Court’s ruling in March that states could not bar Mr. Trump from running for another term under a constitutional provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, that prohibits insurrectionists from holding office.

“If Ohio bars Biden from the ballot, the Supreme Court should order him back on the ballot just like it did with Trump in Colorado,” Ms. Torres-Spelliscy said.

But it took six months of legal wrangling from when Colorado voters sued to take Mr. Trump off the ballot to when the Supreme Court put the issue to bed. Ohio is not considered a swing state — Mr. Trump won there with an eight-point lead in 2020 — but the Biden campaign could be drawn into a monthslong legal battle to ensure that the president is on the ballot in all 50 states.





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