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Biden may have a problem getting on the Ohio ballot

The Democrats have invested plenty of time, energy, and money trying to keep Donald Trump off of the ballot this November, hopefully by landing him in prison. But perhaps they should have spent a bit more time making sure that their own candidate will be on the ballot.

Joe Biden's campaign is now facing a technical error that would render him ineligible to be on the ballot in the key swing state of Ohio. It's an unlikely scenario, but the way the calendar is currently set up, the timing of the Democratic National Convention in August would cause Biden to miss Ohio's deadline for ballot access.

It's a safe bet that lawyers from both parties are currently firing off briefs and preparing to wrestle this situation to the ground. 

From NBC News:

Ohio’s secretary of state on Friday signaled that the Democratic National Convention may take place too late for President Joe Biden to appear on the general election ballot in the state, according to a letter obtained by NBC News.

“The Democratic National Convention is scheduled to convene on August 19, 2024, which occurs more than a week after the August 7 deadline to certify a presidential candidate to the office,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose wrote to Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Liz Walters.

ABC News first reported about the existence and content of this letter.

To be fair, this appears to be more the fault of the DNC than the Biden campaign. The party chose the date for the convention and apparently, they didn't bother checking all of the ballot access rules in all of the states first. August 19 isn't particularly late in the season to hold a convention, but Ohio has a statutory requirement that the names of candidates appearing on the November ballot be submitted by August 7.

There are two remedies available for the Democrats here, neither of which is particularly appetizing. The first and most direct option would be to move up the date of their convention by a couple of weeks. That would allow Biden to be officially declared the nominee in time to submit his name to the Ohio Secretary of State. But people plan for these events far in advance and most of the key players have no doubt already made travel arrangements and have other things on their schedule in late July and early August. That doesn't mean that it can't happen, but it would be a significant inconvenience.

The alternative would be for the Ohio state legislature to pass an exemption to the statutory requirement. That path faces a couple of issues of its own, however. First of all, any such exemption would need to be put in place three months ahead of enactment, so it would need to happen by May 9, which is barely a month away. On top of that, the Republicans control the majority in both chambers of the state legislature. Are they really going to go out of their way to pass a special exemption allowing Joe Biden to appear on the ballot? We can't rule that out because refusing to do it would make for some horrible political optics, but we've seen crazier things take place in recent history.

Of course, the other option would be to leave the situation as it currently stands and trust all of Biden's supporters in Ohio to write his name in when they fill out their ballots. But that comes with a significant risk as well. The reality is that there are still a lot of low-information voters out there who don't obsess over these things the way most of our readers do. Some of them may only show up to vote as an afterthought. If they don't see Biden's name, they could conceivably skip over that race and only vote for the Democrats further down the ballot. It wouldn't take too many people falling into that category to lock Ohio up for Trump.

If I were forced to make a prediction today, I would guess that the DNC would move up their convention by a couple of weeks. I suspect that they won't trust the Ohio GOP to pass an exemption in a timely fashion - if at all - and they won't want to risk relying on write-in votes to get Joe Biden over the finish line. We should know in the next couple of weeks because they don't have a lot of time to make this call.

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