Ohio Senate passes GOP-led Biden ballot access bill without Democrats’ support

Ohio Senate passes GOP-led Biden ballot access bill without Democrats’ support
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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — As Ohio lawmakers convened on Tuesday for a special session to address President Joe Biden’s ability to appear on their general election ballot in November, the Democratic National Committee said it would move to conduct virtual party proceedings to certify Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party nominees — a move that works around Ohio’s ballot certification deadline.

Ohio’s Senate Republicans ultimately passed a bill that would both allow Biden to appear on their general election ballot in November, but also bar foreign contributions to ballot issue campaigns. The latter was a direct response to GOP objections to the “Issue 1” campaign last year that constitutionally protected abortion in the state. The move came without Democratic support, however, with members seemingly empowered to vote against the legislation following the DNC announcement.

“We don’t need your fix. The DNC just released a statement several minutes ago that says we’re going to hold a virtual vote of our delegates across the country and nominate President Biden to the ballot,” State Sen. Bill DeMora said on Tuesday. “We don’t want a legislative fix that holds the voters and their rights to the whim of the majority.”

Biden’s ballot access had been uncertain in Ohio because of a conflict over the president’s official party nomination and state election certification deadlines. The DNC’s move to hold virtual nominations bypasses the ballot access concerns in the state.

Ohio law mandates that political parties confirm their presidential candidates 90 days before the general election — on Aug. 7. While Biden wouldn’t have been the official nominee until the DNC convenes on Aug. 19, after the deadline — however the virtual nomination helps ensure that Biden is nominated before the Aug. 7 deadline.

The legislation Ohio Senators passed Tuesday extended the deadline to 74 days, which is Aug. 23, following the DNC. The House still needs to take up the bill.

The Ohio Senate on Tuesday considered just one bill that combined both the ballot issue fix for Biden and also the banning of foreign contributions to issue campaigns. Democrats had objected to Ohio Republicans’ efforts to vote push the two issues through during the special session, arguing that the GOP has made a legislative fix to address ballot certification — a measure that has been granted to both parties in previous election cycles — a political one.

“This special session and the combination of these two bills is a political trade made to try and extract some price to be paid for President Biden being on the ballot,” said House Democratic Whip Dani Isaacsohn during a House Government Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday morning.

Republicans have denied the assertion that they were being “partisan” in trying to combine the issues.

“Which side is really being partisan? Because if we all agree that foreign election interference and foreign contributions into our elections are a problem, then why would somebody vote no on this bill?” said Republican Sen. Rob McColley.

Ohio is the only state where Biden would not qualify to be on the ballot this November. Alabama had also encountered conflicts between their ballot certification and Biden’s official nomination, but their legislature unanimously passed a fix in May that was then signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican.

“The fact that we couldn’t — like Alabama and any other state that had to deal with the issue this time — just pass a clean bill and put Biden on the ballot and deal with all the other issues … separately. But to put them together has been the thing of heartburn for all of us,” said Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, a Democrat, Tuesday on the floor.

The special session to fix the issue legislatively was urged by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, last week.

DeWine also endorsed the GOP-led initiative to bar foreign money from issue campaigns, however.

The Biden campaign has maintained that the president will “be on the ballot in all 50 states.”

“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. And this election is no different — Alabama, with full Republican support, and Washington State are already taking action to ensure that voters can exercise their right to vote for the candidate of their choice in November,” Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to ABC News.

ABC News’ Mike Pappano contributed to this report.

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