Transgender Candidates’ Struggle with Ohio’s Name Disclosure Law

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Transgender Candidates in Ohio

Persistent Refusal by Electoral Board

The county electoral board steadfastly refuses to reverse its decision. It had invalidated a transgender person’s candidacy for a public office in Ohio for not including their former name on voter petitions. This is despite the state governor’s pressure and the emergence of other transgender candidates who do not disclose their former names in Ohio.

Disqualification Despite Adequate Signatures

Real estate photographer Vanessa Joy, who had enough signatures to run as a Democrat in Ohio’s Republican 50th House District, recently found out about her disqualification by the Stark County Board of Elections. An obscure state law, overlooked in recent candidate guides and the Ohio Secretary of State’s 2024 guide, requires disclosing name changes within the last five years. Joy’s candidacy petition did not mention this law or offer space for listing name changes.

Reconsideration Request Denied

The Stark County Board of Elections denied Joy’s request for reconsideration on January 19. They referenced an Ohio Supreme Court case, stating the law is “unambiguous” and does not consider the candidate’s intent behind a name change. The law does not allow for exceptions not written in its language.

Board’s Sympathetic Yet Firm Stance

The Stark County Board of Elections acknowledged Vanessa Joy’s argument about the lack of specificity in the Ohio Secretary of State’s electoral guide. However, they stated their decision must adhere to the law and cannot be arbitrary. Joy is among four transgender candidates for Ohio office this year. Bobbie Arnold and Arienne Childrey faced challenges under the same law for their state House seats but later received clearance for the November ballot. According to the Associated Press, if Joy’s legal challenge fails, Arnold and Childrey might lose their positions.

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Unchallenged Candidacy and Ongoing Fight

Ari Faber, another transgender candidate, has faced no challenges for his state Senate candidacy. He is running under his birth name, as reported by NBC News. Joy, though out of the race for now, works with an attorney to change the law. “I’m out of the race, but not out of the fight,” she asserts.

Governmental Response to the Issue

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) recently stated that transgender candidates should not face disqualification for not listing former names. He advocates for changes to inform future candidates about this law.


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