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How the election deadlines fit into the debate about replacing Biden
How the election deadlines fit into the debate about replacing Biden

When the House’s most vulnerable Democrats met on Capitol Hill this week, they were divided on the key question of whether President Biden should stay in the race. But they agreed at least one thing: a final decision must The decision must be made quickly to meet state voting deadlines and avoid possible lawsuits from Republicans.

If Biden were to drop out now – before he is the party’s official nominee – it would be relatively straightforward to replace him on the ballot, legal experts say. However, the process would become significantly more complex and legally opaque if he were to drop out after he has been officially nominated.

Time is short: Biden is to be chosen as the nominee by a virtual vote of party delegates on August 5, two weeks before the Democrats meet for their convention in Chicago on August 19.

The Democrats, who have called on the president to resign, want a quick solution to avoid procedural chaos. Biden’s supporters, meanwhile, want the internal debate to end quickly so that the party can rally behind him again and there is no ambiguity about his status.

This also ends the agreement on the necessity of expediency.

“There is a lot of concern, but there is no consensus on what to do,” said a House Democrat running for re-election in one of the 29 seats described by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the most hotly contested this year.

Experts say Republicans could try to challenge Biden’s replacement in court. However, if he drops out before the convention and delegates vote for someone else as the Democratic presidential nominee, any challenges to that person’s nomination would be dismissed immediately. If Biden drops out after being named the Democratic nominee, the legal situation would be a little less clear.

The Heritage Foundation has provided insight into Republicans’ likely efforts to challenge a successor to Biden, naming three crucial swing states – Wisconsin, Georgia and Nevada – where they reportedly could wage a legal battle. Some legal analysts say the strength of their arguments will depend on the timing and circumstances of Biden’s departure. Others say there is no reason for an outside group to intervene because the selection of a presidential candidate is left to the national parties.

The pressure of state-level voting deadlines and potential legal battles add another thorny factor in an already tense political environment, with Democrats divided over who to support against former President Donald Trump in November’s election.

Election deadlines are usually a rather obscure area of ​​election law, with little bearing on a party’s most important decisions. Now they matter, and Democratic lawmakers have expressed confusion about how the deadlines, which vary from state to state, affect a scenario in which Biden is replaced.

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday that Democrats are trying to figure out “what the actual deadlines are,” saying it’s “hard to make a decision without fully understanding that.”

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said Wednesday morning that Democrats were urging the president to make a decision “because time is running out.” (Biden stressed that he had already made the decision and was running.)

The group of top Democrats met several times this week, including Wednesday morning, to discuss the party’s dwindling support for Biden, according to three lawmakers in the room. Part of the discussion centered on the importance of determining quickly whether or not Biden is in — to avoid the chaos of an open convention, but also to prevent Republicans from challenging the eventual nominee in state elections.

“What happens if Republicans start suing people to keep them out of the election?” asked one of the three lawmakers on condition of anonymity. to be honest. “They know they’re going to do that.”

Months before the president’s disastrous debate performance, which sparked an uproar within the Democratic Party about his resignation, the Heritage Foundation laid out in a memo how it would legally challenge Democrats in several key swing states if they tried to replace Biden in the election.

Mike Howell, executive director of the conservative think tank The American Oversight Project wrote in an April 2 memo that if Democrats attempted to replace Biden, “there would be the possibility of pre-election litigation in some states that would make the process difficult and potentially unsuccessful.”

Election experts say this is not an issue at present because there is no official candidate for a replacement until delegates vote for one.

“The lawsuit threatened by Heritage would be void if a nomination were announced at the convention,” said Adav Noti, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog group.

If the ticket is nominated or changed after the congress, Noti said the legal situation “would depend on the date of nomination and the State(s) concerned, as each State has its own nomination deadline under the Convention and its own procedures for amendments.”

Howell noted in the memo that some states do not have specific laws about how to handle a presidential candidate’s withdrawal, writing that “this confusion could itself be grounds for litigation.”

Heritage points to a provision in Wisconsin law that says a candidate can only be replaced on the ballot if he or she dies. Jeffrey Mandell, an election lawyer who has worked for Democrats in Wisconsin, said it will be difficult to remove Biden from the ballot once he is nominated, in part because of the short time frame. Ballots will be printed in September and must be mailed to voters abroad starting Sept. 19, according to state law.

Mandell said it was difficult to predict how the Wisconsin Supreme Court would react if Biden dropped out of the race after his nomination.

“If one of the nominees suffers a debilitating but non-fatal accident, I think we can expect the Wisconsin Supreme Court to be pretty flexible,” he said. But if the move were made for political reasons, Mandell said, “that’s a lot more complicated.”

Heritage said Nevada must have a party nominee by June — but a judge may have to resolve that issue. The office of Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar (D) issued an administrative rule last year setting the deadline for September.

Heritage also cited Georgia as a battleground where the organization hopes to thwart an attempt to replace Biden. However, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said Heritage’s reasoning misapplies state law. There is no legal deadline to cast a ballot, as selecting candidates is the responsibility of national parties, not the state. There is, however, a practical deadline, as in any state, which is the date by which ballot printing must begin.

Election experts say conservatives will likely still try to keep a Democratic candidate other than Biden off the ballot to create confusion, even if there is no legal recourse.

“Heritage understands that there is little legal basis for lawsuits regarding ballot access before the nomination,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, a good governance advocacy group. “But no doubt they will still file lawsuits to undermine the democratic process and harass the Democratic Party candidate, whoever that may be.”