Ohio Senate approves fix assuring President Biden is on fall ballot

Published 1:04 pm Sunday, June 2, 2024

COLUMBUS — A temporary fix allowing President Joe Biden to appear on this fall’s ballot cleared the Ohio Senate on Friday as the Republican-dominated Legislature concluded a rare special session.

The vote came one day after the House approved the measure, along with a ban on foreign nationals contributing to state ballot campaigns. The latter measure had been demanded by the Senate, which approved it Friday. Both bills now head to Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who is expected to sign both.

The latter bill also broadened the definition of “foreign nationals” to include lawful permanent residents of the U.S., also known as green card holders. The provision was added to the House bill, with proponents saying it would close “a glaring loophole” in the bill, but several lawmakers questioned whether it eventually would lead to the courts striking down the entire measure as unconstitutional.

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The special session was ostensibly called by DeWine last week to address the fact that Ohio’s deadline for making the November ballot falls on Aug. 7, about two weeks before the Democratic president was set to be formally nominated at the party’s Aug. 19-22 convention in Chicago.

But when the Senate — and then DeWine’s proclamation calling lawmakers back to Columbus — tied the issue to the foreign nationals prohibition, the Democratic National Committee moved to neutralize the need for any vote in Ohio. In tandem with the Biden campaign, it announced earlier this week that it would solve Biden’s problem with Ohio’s ballot deadline itself by holding a virtual roll call vote to nominate him. A committee vote on that work-around is set for Tuesday.

The Democratic National Committee said Friday that the planned virtual roll call will still move forward.

On Thursday, Democrats in the Ohio House had accused the Republican supermajorities in both chambers of exploiting the Biden conundrum to pass an unrelated bill that undermines direct democracy in Ohio, where voters sided against GOP leaders’ prevailing positions by wide margins on three separate ballot measures last year. That included protecting abortion access in the state constitution, turning back a proposal to make it harder to pass such constitutional amendments in the future, and legalizing recreational marijuana.

Political committees involved in the former two efforts took money from entities that had received donations over the past decade from Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, though any direct path from him to the Ohio campaigns is untraceable under campaign finance laws left unaddressed in the House legislation. Wyss lives in Wyoming.

If the foreign nationals legislation does become law, it has the potential to affect ballot issue campaigns making their way toward Ohio’s Nov. 5 ballot. Those include measures proposing changes to Ohio’s redistricting law changes, raising the minimum wage to $15, granting qualified immunity for police and protecting certain voting rights.