Ohio stalls during attempt to get Biden on the November ballot

Chambers can’t agree on necessary changes; Biden campaign unfazed

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Despite movement on two separate plans with the shared goal of getting President Joe Biden on the Ohio ballot this November, the state is seemingly no closer to a legislative fix after some opportunistic tinkering by Ohio’s Senate led the House to sit on its hands.

Without a change to Ohio law, Biden’s official certification as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee would come after the state’s deadline, which would render the incumbent void from the ballot, pending legal action.

Full sessions on Wednesday saw both the Ohio House and Senate pass their respective versions of a legislative fix, but neither of the chambers were willing to agree on the other’s plan.

The Senate’s version of the fix, introduced and approved with haste 24-7 before the House met Wednesday, would provide only a temporary solution to this year’s early deadline issue.

The fix was lumped in with two other bills, including GOP priority legislation that would bar foreign nationals from making monetary contributions to ballot issues, which could impact large-scale initiatives similar to last year’s abortion issues all the way down to citizen-led community improvement projects.

Under the House’s solution, major parties could miss the deadline so long as they notify the state that their certification would come late, and so long as the certification came within 74 days of the election (the current deadline is 90 days before the election).

In the end, the Senate’s decision to fold GOP priority legislation into the Senate’s version made the Senate’s fix more appealing to many House Republicans. This eroded Republican support for the House’s fix.

With this all laid out, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, opted to not bring either the House fix to the floor and cut session short to avoid taking up the Senate’s fix.

Stephens contends that there wouldn’t have been enough Republican votes to pass the Senate’s bill, made worse by the fact that several Republicans, including Rep. Bernie Willis, R-Springfield, left session early.

“We didn’t take up the vote,” Stephens told reporters after session. “We didn’t have a consensus on how to get that done today between the House and the Senate and all parties involved.”

Wednesday’s move to skip over a chance to pass GOP priority legislation along with the ballot fix angered a handful of GOP House members, many of which have been consistently pitted against Stephens since he assumed power with the help of Democrats.

“(It) would have kept foreign money out of our elections, but obviously the speaker, once again, cut a deal with the Democrats that blocked us from voting,” Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., told the Dayton Daily News after session. “This is another example that he’s led by the Democrats. This is a very important issue.”

Plummer said Stephens’ decision Wednesday likely turned pro-Stephens lawmakers against him, which may create a window of opportunity for Plummer and various other anti-Stephens GOP lawmakers to remove Stephens from power.

The entire dynamic is further complicated by an ongoing battle for power among GOP lawmakers. Stephens — hoping to retain his speakership next year — has generally been hesitant with Senate proposals, particularly those with full support of Senate President Matt Huffman, who is likely to run for House speaker next year.

And, given that Republicans hold a super majority in both chambers, Democrats are entirely dependent upon GOP lawmakers reaching not only across the aisle but also across bitter divides within their own party.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, called the campaign finance portion of the Senate’s ballot fix solution a “poison pill.”

“They’re playing games with this. We had a clean option that everyone had agreed to — leadership in Senate Republicans and House Republicans — and they couldn’t help themselves. They wanted to play politics,” Russo said after session.

Wednesday’s standstill wasn’t entirely unexpected. Russo told reporters on Tuesday that her party is looking at options outside the legislature to ensure Biden gets on the ballot, including a lawsuit.

Biden’s campaign is still convinced that the incumbent president will be on the November ballot in Ohio, but has remained relatively mum on what specific recourse bring them such confidence.

“Joe Biden will be on the ballot in all 50 states,” the Biden campaign said in a statement to the Dayton Daily News. “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.”

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Avery Kreemer can be reached at 614-981-1422, on X, via email, or you can drop him a comment/tip with the survey below.

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