Democrats weigh different paths to getting Biden on the ballot in Alabama and Ohio

Democrats are exploring their options to get President Joe Biden on the ballot in Alabama and Ohio after top Republican elections officials warned that he would miss the deadline to be certified as the Democratic nominee in both states.

The offices of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen have over the past week notified Democrats that their nominating convention this summer occurs too close to the general election for Biden to make their state ballots.

The Democratic National Convention will be held from August 19-22. Ohio’s certification deadline is August 7 and Alabama’s is August 15. The Republican National Convention will be held July 15-18.

Historically, when a political party’s nominating convention occurs after a state deadline for certifying nominees, states have either enacted laws to push back the deadline – as Ohio did in 2012 and 2020 – or accepted a provisional certification from the party.

The Biden campaign has called on Ohio and Alabama officials to follow past precedent. One state is following precedent now: In a letter obtained by CNN, Washington state’s director of elections informed the Democratic National Committee that it would accept a provisional certification of the Biden-Harris ticket by August 20.

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

It has proposed several options. Ohio and Alabama could push back their deadlines or accept provisional certifications that would be confirmed after the conventions – as Alabama did in 2020 for Republicans. Each come with their own challenges.

In Ohio, LaRose’s office advised Democrats to either move their convention or pass legislation, both unlikely.

Chris Redfern, who chaired the Ohio Democratic Party in 2012 when bipartisan legislation to push back the certification deadline was enacted, said he doesn’t expect Republicans to reach across the aisle now. “It certainly won’t happen this time,” he said.

In Alabama, Democratic lawmakers in the state House and state Senate introduced legislation Thursday to push back the certification deadline to August 23.

“These two bills will hopefully get bipartisan support since it has happened before to Republican candidates and could happen again,” Democratic former Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama wrote on social media. “It is in everyone’s interest to fix this for this year and the future.”

Jones downplayed concerns that state election officials were plotting against Democrats, saying he appreciated the secretary of state sending his letter “in plenty of time to remedy the situation.”

Other options being considered by the Biden campaign include holding a remote version of the convention roll call, when delegates would formally nominate Biden, or pursuing litigation.

The campaign hinted at a legal case in an April 10 letter to the Alabama secretary of state’s general counsel, Mike Jones. It warned that “a court would have little difficulty finding that strict application” of the state’s deadline would “impose a severe restriction” on ballot access.

In the letter, from Democratic National Committee and Biden campaign lawyer Barry Ragsdale, the campaign argued that provisional certification “avoids the constitutional problems” of keeping the campaign off the ballot and noted it was the same process Allen’s predecessor allowed the Trump campaign to follow in 2020.

Allen, however, reiterated his stance that state law does not allow for “provisional certifications.”

“On January 16, 2023, I took an oath to uphold Alabama law and that is what I am going to do,” he said in a statement. “My office will accept all certifications that comply with Alabama code section 17-14-31(b).”

The latest moves in Ohio and Alabama follow attempts in several Democratic-led states to keep former President Donald Trump, now the presumptive GOP nominee, off the ballot. Proponents argued that Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, left him ineligible for public office under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist” ban.

The US Supreme Court ruled last month that the former president could not be removed from the ballot in Colorado or any other state.

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