Democrats to nominate Joe Biden in virtual session to ensure he's on Ohio ballot

Democrats will virtually choose President Joe Biden as their nominee after Ohio lawmakers dragged their feet in changing a state deadline that clashed with the party's convention.

The Democratic National Committee will hold a virtual roll call ahead of its Aug. 19 convention in Chicago and before Ohio's Aug. 7 deadline to certify the ballot, party officials told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau on Tuesday. The announcement came the same day the Ohio Legislature convened a special session at Gov. Mike DeWine's behest to get Biden on the ballot.

A DNC committee will meet next week to greenlight virtual proceedings, and all members will vote on the change sometime after that. Democrats have not yet set a date for the roll call, which they also held virtually in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Joe Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio and all 50 states, and Ohio Republicans agree," DNC chair Jaime Harrison said. "But when the time has come for action, they have failed to act every time, so Democrats will land this plane on our own. 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."

President Joe Biden speaks to supporters and volunteers during a campaign event in Atlanta on May 18.
President Joe Biden speaks to supporters and volunteers during a campaign event in Atlanta on May 18.

The issue with Ohio's ballot surfaced in April when Secretary of State Frank LaRose told Democrats that the certification deadline is 12 days before the DNC. That left the party and Biden campaign with three options: Change convention procedures, sue Ohio or let state lawmakers move the deadline, as they have for past elections.

Alabama and Washington faced the same problem and resolved it. The Alabama Legislature voted to change the deadline, while Washington's secretary of state agreed to provisionally certify Biden. Democrats also sought provisional certification in Ohio, but state officials struck down that idea.

The prospect of a legislative solution dimmed earlier this month when lawmakers deadlocked on a plan to change the certification date. While the Ohio House proposed a standalone Biden fix, Senate Republicans tacked on separate legislation to ban foreign citizens from contributing to state and local ballot issues. The House didn't vote on either bill.

Democrats contend the foreign money measure is a "poison pill" that will hinder citizen-initiated ballot campaigns. GOP lawmakers saw it as a tradeoff for helping the DNC and Biden campaign solve a problem of their own making. It's already illegal for foreign nationals give money to Ohio candidates or contribute to federal, state or local elections.

Following inaction at the statehouse, a frustrated DeWine ordered lawmakers to return this week and address a Biden ballot fix and foreign campaign spending. But Democrats opted to pursue their own path in case lawmakers fail to reach a deal.

"In addition to being an unprecedented distraction, this petty partisanship is bound to fail," said Justin Levitt, a former Biden White House adviser and law professor at Loyola Marymount University. "Both candidates will inevitably be on the ballot; the only real question is whether Ohio's legislators and secretary of state will feel any shame for lighting their constituents' tax dollars on fire in the meantime."

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Democratic Party to nominate Joe Biden virtually to meet Ohio deadline