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Republican Senate leader says Biden will be on Ohio's fall ballot

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) talks to members of the press during a Nov. 15, 2023, gaggle.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) talks to members of the press during a Nov. 15, 2023, gaggle.

State legislators have until May 9 to change a law that could keep President Joe Biden off the Ohio ballot this fall, because the Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Chicago will be held after the state’s presidential candidate certification deadline. But the Republican leader of the Ohio Senate said Biden will be on the ballot.

The Ohio Democratic Party was notified April 5 by the office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, that the deadline to certify presidential candidates is Aug. 7. The party's convention is set for Aug. 19-22. The letter said the Democratic National Committee must move up the convention or state lawmakers had to act to change the deadline by May 9.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump couldn’t be kept off the ballot in Colorado. And he said if there’s no change to Ohio’s deadline, which is set at 90 days before the election to accommodate 30 days of early voting, a federal court would likely step in.

“For folks who say, well, we can keep Joe Biden off the ballot, that's wrong. I think you're not going to be able to look at the current president of the United States and a major political candidate and just say, 'we got a law, you didn't know about it, ha, ha,'" Huffman said. "I think it's likely that if a state law, whether it's this one or state action like Colorado and Maine, that will keep a candidate of a major political party off the ballot, then ultimately a federal court and perhaps the United States Supreme Court would move in and do something about that."

Huffman said he’ll try to accommodate whatever Democrats propose – though at least one Republican senator has said he won’t vote to help Democrats.

An Ohio Democratic Party spokesman has said the party is looking into the situation. Democratic state lawmakers have said they believe there are multiple options and have been talking with the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

A Biden campaign official said in a statement: "Joe Biden will be on the ballot in all 50 states. State officials have the ability to grant provisional ballot access certification prior to the conclusion of presidential nominating conventions. In 2020 alone, states like Alabama, Illinois, Montana, and Washington all allowed provisional certification for Democratic and Republican nominees."

This is the first time only one of the two major party conventions will miss the 90-day deadline for presidential candidates to be certified for Ohio's general election ballot. That deadline was part of a 2010 law that set up a system to pay voter-approved bonuses to veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Lawmakers moved the deadline to 60 days for the 2012 and 2020 elections because both the Republican and Democratic conventions were scheduled for after the 90-day deadline.

Two other states are dealing with a similar situation. Lawmakers in Republican-run Alabama have passed legislation to push back the deadline from 82 days to 74 days. And in solidly-Democratic Washington, the state has notified the DNC that an exception to their law could be made for a provisional certification of Biden's nomination.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.