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States warn Biden could miss ballot. Dems say exceptions have been made for GOP.

Democratic officials are looking at their options after Republican secretaries of state in Ohio and Alabama warned them that President Biden might not appear on their ballots in November because of the timing of his expected nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

Publicly, the Biden campaign is expressing confidence that he will appear on the ballot in both states. But the situation has created new headaches for Democrats and stoked distrust with election officials over what has long been considered an apolitical process.

The chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, Randy Kelley, this week accused the GOP secretary of state, Wes Allen, of “partisan gamesmanship,” noting that accommodations had been made for Republicans in the past when their national conventions were later in the summer.

“While this issue with convention dates has occurred many times in the past, notably with the Alabama GOP in 2004, 2012, and 2020, it appears to only be a problem this year now that the Democrats’ convention is behind the deadline,” Kelley said in a statement.

Allen shot back in a statement, saying he “took an oath to administer Alabama elections in accordance with Alabama law, not to help run the Democratic party.”

The Biden campaign has said a possible solution is “provisional” certification, or formally notifying the states before the convention that they anticipate Biden will be the nominee. But Allen has rebuffed that idea, and Democrats are also exploring legislative remedies.

On Thursday, a Democratic state senator in Alabama, Merika Coleman, introduced a bill that would move that state’s deadline back to Aug. 23, the Friday after the Democratic National Convention ends.

Coleman wrote in an email that she is “very optimistic” and that she sent the proposal to Allen’s office before filing it and “received no indication that they will fight the bill.” If the bill does not pass, though, she added, “Republicans need to prepare for one of the biggest write-in campaigns they’ve ever seen in our state.”

The ballot-access issues for the Biden campaign started coming to light last week, when the Ohio secretary of state’s office sent a letter to the state’s Democratic Party chair saying that the convention, which is set to begin Aug. 19, falls after the deadline to certify Biden for the ballot. State law says presidential candidates must be certified 90 days before the election, which is Aug. 7 this year.

Then, on Monday, Allen, Alabama’s secretary of state, announced that he also had notified the state’s Democrats that their national convention is too late to certify Biden. The Alabama deadline is Aug. 15, four days before the convention.

“Joe Biden will be on the ballot in all 50 states,” Biden campaign spokesperson Josh Marcus-Blank said in a statement. “State officials have the ability to grant provisional ballot access certification prior to the conclusion of presidential nominating conventions. In 2020 alone, states like Alabama, Illinois, Montana and Washington all allowed provisional certification for Democratic and Republican nominees.”

A spokesperson for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in an email that lawyers for the office are “looking into these claims.” But in Alabama, Allen objected to the concept of “provisional ballot access certification” there, saying in a statement there are “no exceptions” to the law that sets the Aug. 15 deadline.

Democrats say that contradicts what Alabama allowed for the GOP ticket in 2020. The National Republican Convention was scheduled to take place after the certification deadline, so Alabama state lawmakers passed a one-time change in the deadline to align with the convention. But even then, Republicans submitted paperwork to the Alabama secretary of state four days before the convention proactively certifying Trump as the “anticipated” nominee.

Ohio also passed legislation in 2020 to make a one-time adjustment to the deadline, a move that sought to help both parties at the time.

Democrats see their options as the “provisional” method described by the Biden campaign or another one-time legislative remedy, though that could come down to the whims of the GOP-controlled legislatures in both states and their bill-passage deadlines. LaRose told Ohio Democrats that state lawmakers there would have to act by May 9.

LaRose also suggested that Democrats could reschedule their national convention, an unlikely scenario after years of planning. The gathering is set for Aug. 19-22 in Chicago.

While Biden faces tough odds in Alabama and Ohio — especially deep-red Alabama — the lack of a presidential nominee could have damaging implications for Democratic turnout farther down the ballot. Ohio is home to one of the country’s most closely watched Senate races, with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) facing off against Republican Bernie Moreno.

“We’re reviewing the letter and working with a number of partners, including the Biden campaign and [Democratic National Committee], on potential solutions,” a spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party, Matt Keyes, said in a statement this week.

correction

In a previous version of this article, Merika Coleman, a Democratic state senator in Alabama, incorrectly said that a bill she introduced would move the state’s deadline for adding a nominee to the ballot back to Aug. 26. She later said the correct date is Aug. 23. The article has been corrected.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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