Ohio Vote, signs, Akron
Ohio Vote signs at a campaign event in Akron, Ohio in 2016. Photo credit: Tim Evanson / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

In Ohio, a technicality in the state's voting laws could keep Joe Biden off the ballot -- and Sherrod Brown out of the Senate.

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Since Ohio’s secretary of state put the Democratic Party on notice that President Joe Biden may not appear on the Buckeye State’s November ballot, a lot of news organizations and pundits have been missing the point of what that could mean.

On the surface, this is about whether Biden will be formally nominated before an August 7 deadline that has been codified in state law, which is effectively impossible since the Democratic convention won’t begin until 12 days later. 

The office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose notified the Democratic National Committee of this potential problem last week. 

The same issue arose in 2020, when both conventions were held after the deadline. But then, since Donald Trump was also affected, the GOP-led state Legislature passed a one-time exception. 

It remains to be seen whether Ohio Republicans will be as accommodating this time when only Biden is affected. 

Granted, even if they end up taking a hard line, there is no scenario in which the incumbent needs to win Ohio to be reelected. 

If he does well enough in Ohio to win a state that has been trending red in recent years, and which he lost by 8 points last time around, then he will have also swept all the key states nearby, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — and be well on his way to an Electoral College landslide.

Obviously, if Biden were not on the ballot, Trump, his likely challenger, would be able to close the anticipated gap in the popular vote. In 2020, the then-incumbent lost by a whopping 7 million votes against Biden. 

However, even with an extra 3 million votes, Trump would likely still lose the popular vote, which would be quite an embarrassment. 

That being said, that is not what this is primarily about. 

If Biden is kept off the ballot, the real loser would be Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Without the incumbent headlining the ballot, it stands to reason that some voters, especially those whose sole motivation is to deny Trump a second term, would sit this one out. 

That could cost Brown precious votes. While he is leading GOP challenger Bernie Moreno fairly comfortably in a recent poll, the race is likely to tighten — and the contest could determine which party will control the Senate. 

It seems unlikely that no solution will be found. Ohio Republicans would look extremely bad if they denied Biden a spot on the ballot after many of them (including LaRose) had railed against states that wanted to exclude Trump for his role in sparking the January 6 insurrection.

In addition, the fact that Ohio Republicans passed the exception for both candidates four years ago would also make them look very bad.

But, if this is simply a blatant power play, then the MAGA-dominated Ohio GOP may not care about appearances as long as Moreno gets an edge and might just beat Brown in November.


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