Democrats unveil plan to get Biden on Ohio ballot

Joe Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention
A partisan clash threatened to keep the US president off the general election ballot in Ohio [Getty Images]

Democrats have announced a solution to break the partisan impasse threatening to keep the sitting US president off the general election ballot in Ohio.

Joe Biden will formally accept his party's presidential nomination for 2024 at its national convention this August.

But Republican officials in Ohio have escalated a standoff over the convention's dates and state ballot access laws.

The national Democratic party will now virtually nominate Mr Biden ahead of the convention.

“Joe Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio and all 50 states, and Ohio Republicans agree,” Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement on Tuesday.

“But when the time has come for action, they have failed to act every time, so Democrats will land this plane on our own."

Held in a presidential election year, party conventions take place during the summer over three days of pomp and pageantry.

A party convention typically culminates with an in-person roll call of every US state and territory nominating their choice of candidate, which is determined by how many votes the individual earned in a preceding primary contest.

The candidate is formally certified as the party nominee on the final day.

In 2020, the Democratic and Republican conventions were largely virtual affairs because of Covid-19 restrictions on social gatherings.

Each party had planned to return to a more extravagant format this year.

Republicans will gather in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 15 to 18 July to re-nominate former President Donald Trump, while Democrats will meet in Chicago, Illinois from 19 to 22 August to select Mr Biden again.

The party that holds the White House - in this case the Democrats - typically holds its convention after the opposing party's event, but Ohio's Republican elections chief had warned in April that the DNC event falls foul of state election laws.

Ohio requires political parties to officially confirm their presidential and vice-presidential nominees to the elections chief 90 or more days before the early November general election.

In a letter earlier this month to state Democrats, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he was "duty-bound to instruct boards of elections to begin preparing ballots" that did not include the names of Mr Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Such conflicts have been resolved with little drama in the past, with Ohio itself making exceptions for Mr Trump in 2020 and Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee.

This year, Democrats in Washington state and Republicans in Alabama made the provisional changes necessary to exempt Mr Biden from ballot deadlines.

But Republicans in the Ohio state legislature expressed opposition to such a solution this year, with the House Speaker quoted as saying "there's just not the will do that".

Lawmakers were called into a special legislative session at the state capitol on Tuesday by Governor Mike DeWine, a moderate Republican who has urged an end to the "absurd situation".

But as the session began, doubts remained over whether the body would implement its own fix, and Democrats told US media they were taking matters into their own hands.

"Through a virtual roll call, we will ensure that Republicans can’t chip away at our democracy through incompetence or partisan tricks and that Ohioans can exercise their right to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice," Mr Harrison said in his Tuesday statement.

It remains unclear when the roll call will take place and whether it will involve every single state and territory.

Ohio, once viewed as a swing state, has become increasingly conservative.

Mr Trump won Ohio in both 2016 and 2020, defeating Hillary Clinton and Mr Biden by roughly 8% margins on each occasion.

The fight over Ohio's ballot comes after another partisan clash earlier this year - one that threatened Mr Trump's ballot appearance.

Officials in Colorado, Illinois and Maine ruled that the Republican was barred from returning to the White House under a Civil War-era insurrection clause in the US Constitution.

The US Supreme Court ultimately knocked down that decision in March, ruling that Mr Trump must be placed on the three states' presidential ballots.