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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Analysis: Despite Republican efforts, Biden will be on Ohio's ballot in November

a white-haired man in a black suit, white button-up shirt and black tie with white dots stands at a podium
Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden speaks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, May 7, 2024 in Washington.

Let's get one thing straight:

President Joe Biden will be on the November ballot in Ohio.

The "problem" brought up by Republicans in the Ohio legislature can and will be resolved — either in court or by an action of the Democratic National Committee or by the Ohio General Assembly.

"I can safely say Joe Biden will be on the ballot," said State Sen. Bill DeMora, a Columbus Democrat. "The Republicans just wanted to create a headline and they've done that. It's time to move on."

In the meantime, an elaborate kabuki dance is going on in the Ohio General Assembly over this issue.

The Ohio Statehouse drama began on April 5, when Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose informed Ohio Democrats that state law requires candidates to be certified for the ballot 90 days before the election, which, this year, is Aug. 7.

The problem is that the Democratic National Convention opens in Chicago 12 days after that deadline. The convention, of course, is where Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are formally nominated by the party.

ANALYSIS: There's a lot at stake on Ohio's November ballot. Here's what to start researching now

LaRose told Democrats the legislature had to change the law by May 9 or the Democrats would have to move up their convention.

Don't hold your breath on the convention being moved up. Major party presidential nominating conventions are massive events, even in years where the nominee is a foregone conclusion.

You can't just pick them up and move them around like pieces on a chessboard.

Both the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate failed to resolve the issue last week.

Last Wednesday the Senate, because of its Republican supermajority, passed a heavily amended version of House Bill 114, a bipartisan piece of legislation that originally dealt only with allowing child care as a campaign expense.

First, the ballot deadline change was added; then, a proposal to ban foreign contributions to Ohio ballot issue campaigns, along with new rules that would make it harder for citizens to get local issues on the ballot.

Democrats called that a "poison pill."

State Sen. Nickie J. Antonio of Lakewood, leader of the Democratic minority, said her caucus refused to take the bait.

“We can all agree we don’t want foreign money influencing our elections — but that’s not what this bill is about," Antonio said.

"Unfortunately, we are once again voting on legislation that makes it harder for Ohioans to have their voices heard at the ballot box. When the legislature is out of step with Ohioans, the people take things into their own hands through ballot initiatives. This bill is an attempt to quash the voice of the voters who are winning at the ballot box, not here in the Statehouse."

DeMora agrees.

ANALYSIS: LaRose praises Trump for proposing a law that already exists

"What they want to do is make it harder for ordinary citizens to file ballot issues and have people vote on them — liquor law changes, zoning changes, even something like installing a stop light at a dangerous intersection," DeMora said.

The Republican-dominated House didn’t take a vote on House Bill 114 last week.

"We didn’t have a consensus over how to get that done between the House and the Senate and all parties involved,” Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens told Ohio Public Radio's Statehouse News Bureau.

Meanwhile, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the bill had to include more than just a fix to put Biden on the ballot "because Republicans in both the House and the Senate aren't going to vote for a stand-alone Biden bill. There's not enough support for it." (Still, Huffman has said he's confident Biden will be on Ohio's ballot).

Last Wednesday, LaRose put out a statement saying that the Democrats rejection of the amended bill shows that they want to protect foreign money in Ohio campaigns.

"There’s one person at this point who’s responsible for keeping Joe Biden off the ballot in Ohio, and it’s a Swiss billionaire you’ve probably never heard of," LaRose said. "Democrats would rather protect Hansjörg Wyss than get Joe Biden on the statewide ballot, and their motives are clear. They’ve become dependent on Wyss’s dark money to fund everything from their ballot campaigns to their fake news operations."

Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, was a contributor to a dark money group that spent money in Ohio last fall to pass Issue 1, the abortion rights amendment which LaRose opposed and which passed overwhelmingly.

When asked about whether or not LaRose, the state's chief elections officer, supported the amendments to House Bill 114 making it more difficult for local ballot initiatives, LaRose's press operation did not respond.

LaRose wanted to talk only about foreign money.

Anything involving the word foreign is a common dog whistle in American politics these days.

ANALYSIS: Will 2024 be the year Ohio's GOP loses its grip on redistricting?

Neither LaRose nor any Republican in the state legislature have addressed the fact that in two recent presidential elections, candidates of both parties — Mitt Romney in 2012 and both Biden and Donald Trump in 2020 — faced similar ballot access problems which were fixed easily in the GOP-dominated Ohio General Assembly.

This can be fixed again.

No less an authority than Mike DeWine, Ohio's Republican governor, says so — and he is the one who would sign a legislative fix into law.

"I think everyone knows the president's name is going to be on the ballot," DeWine told the Statehouse press corps last week.

"There's zero chance that it's not going to happen, and it would be absurd not to have his name on the ballot," DeWine said. "I think in the long run, the legislature needs to take care of this permanently so we don't have this problem again in another presidential election."

Sounds like a plan, governor.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.