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By Ann Turner on
 April 2, 2024

Ohio sounds alarm over Supreme Court decision that could allow state officials to disqualify candidates

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently issued a warning regarding a Supreme Court ruling, suggesting it could empower state election officials to misuse their authority in disqualifying candidates from state or local offices based on supposed violations of the 14th Amendment's Section 3.

The Washington Times reported that the Supreme Court's ruling, according to LaRose, might open doors to potential abuse in the electoral process, specifically in how candidates are qualified for ballot access.

The concern arises from a Supreme Court decision that delineates the scope of power state officials have in disqualifying candidates for state and local offices, but not federal ones, based on the criteria laid out in their judgment. This interpretation, LaRose contends, could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated exclusions from electoral contests.

Exploring the Supreme Court's Decision

LaRose detailed his concerns in an op-ed for Cincinnati.com, where he delved into the implications of the court's ruling. He expressed worry over how the decision might be leveraged by some officials to unjustly bar candidates from the electoral process, potentially undermining democratic norms.

This issue was illuminated by the case of Couy Griffin, a founder of Cowboys for Trump, who faced disqualification from the ballot in New Mexico after being convicted of trespassing at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Despite his appeal, the Supreme Court declined to hear his case, leaving a precedent that underscores the ruling's impact.

Moreover, the Supreme Court's unanimous decision to keep former President Donald Trump on the ballot, following a challenge under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment by Colorado voters, further emphasizes the unique authority Congress holds in enforcing the Constitution's insurrection clause.

Ohio's Legislative Response Considered

LaRose's commentary sheds light on the nuanced debate over whether Ohio should establish a statutory mechanism for denying ballot access based on a Section 3 violation. This discussion hints at the broader implications of the Supreme Court's decision, suggesting a need for legislative clarity to prevent potential misuse.

"This means any secretary of state with the duty to grant ballot access can block a state or local candidate alleged to have violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," LaRose explained, highlighting the discretionary power this ruling could confer on state officials.

He further cautioned, "Of course, once you create a path, some will want to go down it. Others will say it’s best to leave it alone and argue that Ohio has no statutory process for denying ballot access based on a Section 3 violation. Either way, we should consider ourselves warned, and our legislators should decide how best to prevent this arcane constitutional provision from future abuse."

The Debate Over Electoral Integrity Continues

The Supreme Court's decision, while resolving a specific legal question, opens a broader conversation about the balance between upholding constitutional standards and ensuring fair electoral processes. LaRose's call to action urges Ohio's legislators to contemplate the implications of this ruling and to establish clear guidelines that protect against the potential for electoral abuse.

As Ohio navigates these complex legal and ethical terrains, the discussion initiated by LaRose's warnings serves as a critical juncture for state lawmakers, election officials, and the public at large. The path forward, as LaRose suggests, requires careful consideration and proactive legislative responses to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court's ruling has stirred a significant debate in Ohio, with Secretary of State Frank LaRose sounding the alarm on potential abuses of electoral power. His call for legislative action underscores the need for clear, equitable rules governing electoral eligibility, aiming to prevent the misuse of the criteria outlined in the court's decision. As this discussion unfolds, the importance of maintaining a transparent and fair electoral system remains paramount.

Written By:
Ann Turner

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