Rantz: If Joe Bidens drops out, Democratic presidential nominee may not appear on Washington ballot

Jul 7, 2024, 5:55 PM | Updated: Jul 8, 2024, 9:53 am

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks during a presidential debate with Republican presidential candida...

President Joe Biden speaks during a presidential debate with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (File photo: Gerald Herbert, AP)

(File photo: Gerald Herbert, AP)

If President Joe Biden drops out of his troubled re-election campaign, no Democratic candidate for president may end up on the Washington ballot in November. That would cost Democrats 12 Electoral College votes and likely hand the win to former president Donald Trump. And it all comes down to a difficult decision Biden has to make.

After Biden’s disastrous debate performance highlighting his clear and obvious age-related cognitive struggles, Democrats and left-wing media sounded alarms. An interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last week did little to calm the frayed nerves of Democrats who now see Donald Trump as the likely winner in the November election. Panicked Democrats are now privately and publicly calling for Biden to end his re-election campaign. Concurrently, a Trump-hating media is amplifying the messages, hoping there will be another candidate who can step up in Biden’s place.

The prospects for a Democratic open convention in late August have never seemed more real. But if they get to that point, Washington’s loyal Democratic voters will be unlikely to have a like-minded candidate to support. Washington may not be the only state without a Democratic candidate either, depending on deadlines to appear on ballots.

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Is there a chance no Democratic nominee for president ends up on the Washington Ballot? Yes

Under Washington law, deadlines require a nomination certification no later than August 20, 2024. This is two days before the Democratic National Convention concludes. If there’s an open convention where various candidates duke it out for the nomination, it would not happen by the Washington deadline.

“In the unlikely event that the Democrat National Committee does not submit nominations for president and vice president, no one would be listed for that party,” a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office explained to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH after being asked what would happen in an open convention where a provisional certification was not offered by August 20.

The timing of the DNC nomination was always a hurdle for Biden and Democrats.

Even if there wasn’t the prospect of an open convention, the state’s deadline was still in place. But Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs agreed to accept a provisional nomination from the Democratic National Committee by August 20. It would attest that Biden will be the party’s nominee after the convention. This move is not unprecedented. It was done for both Democrats and Republicans (including Trump) in 2020.

“Anything past the August 20 deadline puts the ballot preparation process into turmoil,” former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman exclusively explained to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

The deadline and Democrat drama opens up several scenarios that could impact the presidential election.

What different scenarios could happen if Joe Biden drops out?

If Biden stays in the race, Hobbs’ office expects the provisional certification on August 20. It would be followed by an official certification by August 23 that matches the provisional one.

Biden said he’s not dropping out of the race, despite the collective Democrat freakout playing out in front of cameras and behind the scenes. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is reportedly assembling Democratic senators to demand Biden step aside and allow another candidate to run for president. A spokesperson for the senator neither confirmed nor denied to reports. Instead, a spokesperson offered the Washington Post the statement, “Like many other people in Washington and across the country, Senator Warner believes these are critical days for the president’s campaign, and he has made that clear to the White House.”

If Biden drops out, and there is no singular candidate to step up, such as a deeply unpopular Vice President Kamala Harris, there would be no provisional certification by the deadline.

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What if the certifications don’t match?

It’s possible Democrats supply a provisional Biden certification but then party drama during the convention convinces Biden to drop out. Only the president can release his delegates to vote for other candidates. Assuming he didn’t drop out before the convention, the delegates wouldn’t be free for other candidates until day two.

Hobbs’ office is giving itself some wiggle room on how to move forward if the provisional certification doesn’t match an official one.

“If the provisional certification submitted on August 20 is different than the certification submitted on August 23, we would consult with our attorneys before making any decision,” Hobbs’ spokesperson explained to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

But to have a Democrat on the ballot in this scenario, it would appear that state attorneys would have to council Hobbs to simply ignore the law and his own rules.

The laws governing nomination certifications are clear, giving Hobbs the legal framework for the August 20 deadline. The intent of this administrative rule is to give the state enough time to print the ballots, particularly for military voters serving overseas. Federal law requires they be mailed 45 days before the election. Depending on how extensive and complicated the county ballots are, the process can take at least six weeks.

‘Unchartered territory’

Former Secretary of State Wyman is watching the drama unfold from a different position now. No longer subject to the deadlines as Secretary of State, the Republican who left her role to work under the Biden administration in election security before ultimately stepping aside, warned Hobbs and other secretaries of state better start planning “what if” scenarios.

“This is all unchartered territory,” Wyman explained. “There is a point where you have to move ahead with the ballot process. That’s true across the country. Litigation will ensure, no matter what happens, every day that goes past that deadline, there will be a challenge. Even Democrats might challenge if they don’t like the results of the convention.”

Wyman said election officials across the country should be looking to their existing laws and regulations to game plan next steps.

“Hobbs really should be making contingency plans. What if the nominee is different than what was on the provision certification? What if they don’t select a nominee?” she asked.

She even thinks Hobbs and others should plan for next steps “if the nominee changes between the convention and election day.”

All of this assumes that Democrats don’t hold their mid- or late-July digital roll call vote nominating Biden as the candidate, which was planned as the Ohio legislature considered legislation changing their certification deadline of August 6.

There would be a legal challenge over ballot access

If Hobbs was effectively forced to keep a Democratic nominee off the ballot, it would undoubtedly trigger a legal challenge. But it’s unclear how it would go, though you’d expect judges to err on the side of voters’ access to a major party candidate. But the timing is important. The longer the legal challenges, the tighter it could be for the state to meet printing deadlines.

There was a potential legal challenge to Trump appearing on the Washington ballot that earned some traction courtesy of cheerleading by the Seattle Times.

In a dramatically titled column, “Plot twist: WA has a law against felons running for office,” writer Danny Westneat cited a local activist lawyer who said he had clients ready to keep Trump off the ballot. The columnist cites RCW 29A.68.020 as providing registered voters the right to “challenge the right of a candidate to appear on the general election ballot after a primary.” This could apply to a candidate who was “convicted of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction, the conviction not having been reversed nor the person’s civil rights restored after the conviction” prior to the election. Though Hobbs eventually denied this could keep Trump off the ballot, a judge would ultimately decide, possibly using the same justification to keep him on the ballot as he would with any challenge against a Democratic candidate.

It’s not necessarily clear how a judge would decide — assuming Joe Biden drops out of the race too late

Federal elections are governed primarily by the U.S. Constitution and federal laws, as established in Supreme Court decisions in Powell v. McCormack (1969) and U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (1995). However, states are responsible for administering federal elections.

States are responsible for administrative tasks, such as managing voter registration, the design of ballots, and election procedures. If state law forced Hobbs to abide by the state’s law and regulations, this would be well within the state’s administrative role in administering federal elections.

If, due to the timing of certification by Democrats, ballots were not guaranteed to be ready to comply with federal law, how would a judge justify a decision in favor of Democrats? You cannot argue that it’s better to deprive voters of their right to vote than it is to keep one candidate from a ballot because of their own incompetence and in-fighting.

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Washington in play for Trump

Though it wouldn’t be easy for Trump to face any Democratic nominee in Washington, new polling shows his support steady and loyal. Biden’s support, however, is soft.

According to a May Cascade PBS/Elway poll, Biden had only 42% support (31% certain, 11% inclined to support the president but could change their minds). Trump had 34% support (25% certain, 9% inclined to support the former president but could change their minds). With media coverage so positively skewed toward Biden and against Trump, both results are surprising for voters in this deeply blue state. After Biden’s debate debacle, it’s hard to imagine support skyrocketing. With 13% of Washington voters undecided, Trump theoretically has a shot at taking the state.

Trump senior campaign adviser and Seattle native Jason Miller explained to sister station KIRO Newsradio, immediately after the presidential debate, that, “Washington state may now be in play.”

“President Trump delivered the greatest performance in debate history,” Miller said in a text message sent to KIRO Newsradio. “Millions of Americans have now been reminded what a real leader looks like, and have had their hope restored that we can turn around our economy and secure our southern border.”

Listen to “The Jason Rantz Show” on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

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