Is Frank LaRose a Trump-daddy masochist or is he flagging a real ballot access issue?

Posted on Apr 8, 2024

Over the weekend, news broke that Secretary of State Frank LaRose has flagged that under his interpretation of Ohio state law, President Biden will be ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 general election ballot unless either the Democratic National Convention occurs earlier in the year, or Ohio law is changed.

In the letter, obtained by ABC News, legal counsel for Secretary of State Frank LaRose sought clarification for “an apparent conflict in Ohio law” between the Democratic National Committee’s nominating process and the deadline by which the party’s presidential nominee must be certified to the Secretary of State’s office.

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled to convene on Aug. 19, which will take place more than a week after the Aug. 7 deadline to certify a presidential candidate in Ohio, the office flagged according to state code, which would create a problem for Biden’s eligibility.

“I am left to conclude that the Democratic National Committee must either move up its nominating convention or the Ohio General Assembly must act by May 9, 2024 (90 days prior to a new law’s effective date) to create an exception to this statutory requirement,” legal counsel Paul Disantis wrote in the letter, requesting a quick response on a solution to become compliant with state law.

A lot of people are wondering what is going on here. LaRose was notably passed over by Donald Trump for endorsement in the Ohio Senate primary, but he seems to be doing Trump a huge favor here– and incidentally of the exact type that some Never Trump Republicans were warning he was susceptible to doing back before LaRose’s original election as Secretary of State. Is he a Trump-daddy masochist? Or is this a real, live issue and he and his office are being honest brokers here?

It’s pretty hard to say based on what we know right now. There might even be a third option: Maybe this is being driven by lawyers in LaRose’s office who want a job as “chief counsel” of whatever undersecretariat of whatever agency or department in a second Trump administration and this is an easy way to get their name and resume in front of Trump.

What isn’t hard to say: Ohio proved to be more red than Texas in 2020. Whether Biden is on the ballot or off the ballot, it’s exceptionally unlikely that he wins a state that he last lost to Trump by eight points.

The major issue here is probably not “OMG, Biden might not be able to win Ohio” (shifting demographics and attitudes have basically guaranteed that). It is probably more what happens to Democrats down ballot.

If there’s no reason for Democratic-inclined voters who only bother to vote in presidential elections to show up, well, probably a ton of them will not. And when they do not, that may have an effect on the Moreno v Brown race (though we know more than a few Ohioans who would vote for Biden over January 6, but would never vote for Brown because he’s just so far to the left). It may have an effect on congressional races. When you get down to the hyperlocal races where ten votes here or ten votes there really move things, you could see Republicans rack up a bunch of victories that right now are far from guaranteed.

Let’s see what the legislature does about this. No one is moving the Democratic National Convention up (years of planning have gone into it and that is simply not going to be feasible), so it’s really down to the legislature. Expect to see Trump leaning on them hard to keep the rules exactly as they are.