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Ohio lawmakers convene for special session to ensure Biden is on 2024 ballot

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(WASHINGTON) — Ohio lawmakers have convened on Tuesday for a special session to address President Joe Biden’s ability to appear on their general election ballot in November — access that has been uncertain due to a conflict over the president’s official party nomination and state election certification deadlines.

But the Ohio Senate will consider two separate bills — one to address Biden’s ballot access and one introduced by Ohio Senate Republicans that would bar foreign sources from funding ballot issue campaigns. The latter is a direct response to GOP objections to the “Issue 1” campaign last year when Swiss billionaire ​Hansjörg Wyss helped fund a ballot measure that enshrined abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution.

Democrats have objected to Ohio Republicans’ efforts to vote push the two issues through during the special session, arguing that the GOP has made a legislative fix to address ballot certification — a measure that has been granted to both parties in previous election cycles — a political one.

“This special session and the combination of these two bills is a political trade made to try and extract some price to be paid for President Biden being on the ballot,” said House Democratic Whip Dani Isaacsohn during a House Government Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday morning.

Ohio law mandates that political parties confirm their presidential candidates 90 days before the general election — on Aug. 7. Biden won’t be the official nominee until the Democratic National Convention convenes on Aug. 19, after the deadline.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, raised the “apparent conflict in Ohio law” to the Democratic Party in April. The legislation Ohio lawmakers are considering this week would extend the deadline to 74 days, which is Aug. 23, following the DNC.

Ohio is the only state where Biden would not qualify to be on the ballot this November. Alabama had also encountered conflicts between their ballot certification and Biden’s official nomination, but their legislature unanimously passed a fix in May that was then signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican.

The special session to fix the issue legislatively was urged by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, last week.

“Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting president of the United States, on the ballot this fall. Failing to do so is simply not acceptable. This is a ridiculous — this is an absurd situation,” DeWine said during a news conference last week.

DeWine also endorsed the GOP-led initiative to bar foreign money from issue campaigns, however.

“The purpose of this session will be for the General Assembly to pass legislation ensuring that both major presidential candidates will be on the Ohio ballot in November, as well as legislation that would prohibit campaign spending by foreign nationals,” he said.

Ahead of DeWine’s push, Ohio House leaders — Speaker Jason Stephens and House Minority Leader Allison Russo — both said during separate media gaggles that a legislative fix to Biden’s access during the general election was very unlikely.

The GOP-controlled state Senate introduced and then passed in a party-line vote a bill earlier this month that would extend Ohio’s ballot certification deadline so that Biden could still be formally nominated at the DNC. The bill included a portion on foreign money, too.

But the House then adjourned without considering that Senate version or its own, which just had the ballot fix.

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

“Election after election, states across the country have acted in line with the bipartisan consensus and taken the necessary steps to ensure the presidential nominees from both parties will be on the ballot. And this election is no different — Alabama, with full Republican support, and Washington State are already taking action to ensure that voters can exercise their right to vote for the candidate of their choice in November,” Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to ABC News.

ABC News’ Mike Pappano contributed to this report.

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