Ohio governor calls special legislative session to include Biden on election ballot

Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, has called an emergency legislative session to put Joe Biden’s name on the presidential ballot after what he called an “absurd” threat from the state’s top election officer to remove the president for missing its deadline.

For weeks, Ohio’s secretary of state, Frank LaRose, has been at loggerheads with the Democrats over how to put Biden and his vice-president, Kamala Harris, on the ballot given that their official nomination comes after the expiry of the state’s deadline of 90 days before the November election.

The Biden-Harris ticket is scheduled to be certified after its official coronation on the final day of the Democratic national convention on 22 August in Chicago, 15 days after Ohio’s 7 August cutoff date.

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LaRose, also a Republican, warned this week that current rules would force him to exclude Biden’s name from ballot papers, denying voters in the state a full choice of presidential candidates.

He wrote to the chair of the Ohio Democratic party, Elizabeth Walters, saying the onus was on the party to change its nominating arrangements because the state legislature had ruled out amending Ohio law to accommodate Biden.

In a news conference, DeWine overrode that decision, calling the situation “simply unacceptable”.

“Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting president of the United States, on the ballot this fall,” he said. “Failing to do so is simply not acceptable. This is a ridiculous – this is an absurd situation.”

Posting on X, LaRose – who first raised the issue last month – had earlier said he was “duty bound to follow the law as Ohio’s chief elections officer”.

“As it stands today, the Democratic Party’s nomination will not be on the Ohio election ballot,” he wrote. “That is not my choice. It’s due to a conflict in the law created by the party, and the party has so far offered no legally acceptable remedy.”

The Democrats had earlier suggested resolving the problem by offering a “provisional nomination” of Biden and Harris, a solution LaRose said fell short of the state’s legal standard. Democrats countered that this view was contradicted by the experience of the 2020 election when, they argued, several other states accepted a similar resolution to incompatible deadlines for both parties.

DeWine’s decision potentially saves the Democratic party from filing a lawsuit to force Biden’s name on to the ballot.

A similar possible deadlock situation arose in Alabama, but state legislators resolved it by pushing back the certification date, with the governor quickly signing it into law.

The imbroglio has come against a backdrop of mistrust between Democrats and Republicans over elections, fuelled by Donald Trump’s relentless peddling of a lie that Biden’s 2020 presidential victory was “stolen”.

Ohio was once viewed as a swing state but has recently trended solidly Republican, with Trump triumphing over Biden by eight percentage points four years ago, and beating Hillary Clinton by a similar margin in 2016.

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