DemDaily: Biden Prevails in Ohio Ballot Access Battle

May 29, 2024

On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced that to ensure that Joe Biden appears on the Ohio ballot this November, they must technically nominate the President through a “virtual roll call” vote ahead of the August 19-22 Democratic National Convention.

The fix is the DNC's answer to a standoff with the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly which refused to pass legislation to alter an obscure legal deadline for ballot access.

Both Democratic and GOP lawmakers appeared unaware that Ohio requires political parties to confirm their presidential candidates 90 days before the November election, which would be August 7. As that comes two weeks before Biden is officially nominated at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, he could not be placed on the ballot as the Democratic nominee.

Ohio Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose waited until April 9 to officially inform the state Democratic Party of the deadline, warning that Biden would not be on the state’s ballot unless the legislature moved the ballot access deadline to after the Democratic convention.

There are typically a few states each election year whose ballot certification deadlines do not align with the party’s official nominating convention. Traditionally, those issues are quietly resolved by either the state legislature, the secretary of state or internally between the state parties.

Two other states found easy resolution for their early 2024 certification deadlines. Democrats in Washington offered a provisional certification of Biden’s nomination, and lawmakers in Alabama passed legislation in May that deferred the state’s certification deadline until after the DNC convention.

Calling the Ohio situation "ridiculous" and "absurd," GOP Governor Mike DeWine called a special legislative session March 28 to change the state law, which has been done before, and ensure Biden will be on the November ballot.

The Ohio House version was a clean bill that permanently changed the nominating deadline to 74 days -- which this year would be August 23 -- while the Senate advocated for a temporary date change. Its passage, however, was conditional on a campaign finance bill attached by DeWine and GOP Senators, that aimed at making it harder to pass ballot initiatives in Ohio. All three Democratic-supported ballot measures last year, which started as voter-driven initiatives, passed.

Once the top battleground state, Ohio has trended Republican over the last decade, delivering a 8% victory in both 2016 and 2020 to Donald Trump -- who now leads Biden in the state 50%-38%. State Republicans control the Governor's mansion and both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly, as well as Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer and other state executive offices. Republicans maintain a 4-3 majority on the State Supreme Court.

A proposal by Ohio Democrats to simply move the ballot deadline past the convention was shot down by the GOP’s supermajority, and on May 23, a frustrated Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) announced there would be no legislative solution: “For weeks, we have been pushing to find a legislative solution to having President Biden on the ballot. Ultimately, the will to do so wasn’t there in the Republican caucus."

Perhaps the most important reason for having Biden on the ballot is to draw voters to the polls for Senator Sherrod Brown (D), who is up for reelection to a third term and among the top targeted races in the country.

While further details on Democrats' roll call vote have yet to be announced, the DNC is treating the change in schedule as a mere inconvenience. As the sitting President and presumed nominee, many aspects of the convention are already ceremonial.

The DNC also has first-hand experience in finalizing their nominee through the virtual process. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Democratic National Convention was conducted almost entirely remotely, with the roll call featuring prerecorded messages and live shots from across the country.

In response to concerns over the adjustment to the process, Democratic National Convention Committee Chair Minyon Moore assured the same amazing experience: “You will still see those delegates on the floor, and you’ll see them cheering with their funny hats, vests and buttons. You’ll see all the dynamics of a traditional convention taking into consideration the world has changed quite a bit as we want to make sure everyone can see it. Whether you’re at home, whether you’re online, or whether you’re in the hall.”

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet virtually Tuesday, June 4 at 6:00pm ET to vote on a resolution to clear the way for the virtual nomination event. If approved, the resolution will then need a vote from the full DNC.

Watch the live stream of the meeting: DNC YouTube Channel

DemDaily: Countdown to The Convention 5/13/24
DemDaily: Your Convention Primer! 4/15/24
DemDaily: Call to the Convention Calendar 3/25/24

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Washington Post, Politico, DNC, WCBE, Emerson College, Ohio State House, X, ABC

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