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Ohio Gov. DeWine orders state lawmakers back to Columbus for Biden ballot fix

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine calls a special session of the Ohio Legislature in May 2024.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine calls a special session of the Ohio Legislature in May 2024.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine leaned on a distinctive chief executive power Thursday evening, ordering state lawmakers back to Columbus for a special session Tuesday and Wednesday to pass legislation that puts current U.S. President Joe Biden on the November ballot.

A similar proclamation hasn't been put out by an Ohio governor in nearly 20 years, but DeWine said the situation at hand warranted the extraordinary measure.

It follows weeks of back-and-forth, after the Ohio Democratic Party was notified that the Democratic National Committee convention is scheduled later than Ohio's legislative deadline to certify candidates. DeWine called out fellow members of his party for not passing a proposal to change the 90-day deadline.

“Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting president of the United States, on the ballot this fall,” DeWine said at a press conference. “This is a ridiculous, this is an absurd situation.”

The stated purpose of the special session, however, also tasks lawmakers with passing a GOP-backed proposal banning foreign contributions to ballot issues. Democrats have called it a poison pill. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and other Democrats took to X—formerly Twitter—on Thursday night, asking for a clean bill.

“Political dysfunction has been the only road block to providing a legislative solution to ensuring Biden is on the ballot,” Russo wrote. “If we’re serious about passing something, it needs to be a clean fix.”

Fast-tracked versions of the dark money language have cleared the Ohio Senate three times since February, most recently on Wednesday. The Ohio House has its own version.

In an email statement, a spokesperson for Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said that Huffman agreed with DeWine—casting blame on the lower chamber of the legislature.

“We encourage the Speaker and Minority Leader to allow a vote on House Bill 114, which does both,” the spokesperson wrote.

But a spokesperson for Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said the House GOP caucus hasn't been able to find consensus and pass a legislative solution that puts Biden in front of voters. The spokesperson said “everyone agrees” on the contributions issue.

“We look forward to real solutions that will actually pass both chambers next week and solve problems,” the spokesperson wrote.

Two other states have certification deadlines before the August convention in Chicago.

In staunchly-red Alabama, lawmakers unanimously advanced a change to their deadline earlier this month. Washington is seeking a provisional certification from the Democratic Party, but Secretary of State Frank LaRose told Ohio Democrats that path isn't allowed under state law.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at