If transgender candidates in Ohio for public office fail to reveal their true names on election documentation, they could be removed from the ballot.
Motivated by bills they claim target and discriminate against transgender people, several Democrats running for the GOP-controlled state House this year claim an obscure state law is impeding their campaign, requiring them to list their “deadnames,” or the names they had before their transition.
A second transgender candidate for the Ohio House, which is controlled by Republicans, faces disqualification from the vote for not using her previous name on petitions that are being circulated.
Arienne Childrey, a Democrat of Auglaize County and one of four transgender candidates running for the Legislature, will face a vote by the Mercer County Board of Elections on Thursday regarding her eligibility to run. Childrey withheld her former name, also known as her deadname, from her petition paperwork.
Candidates for public office in Ohio are required by law from 1995 to identify on their campaign materials any name changes they have had during the previous five years. This means that transgender candidates may occasionally be forced to disclose their deceased names.
This month, Vanessa Joy was taken off the ballot for Ohio House District 50, a Republican stronghold located just south of Akron. Joy had intended to run as a Democrat, but she neglected to reveal her deadname on petitions distributed to registered voters.
There are many exceptions to the legislation she is accused of breaking, one of them is for candidates who change their names after getting married. Candidates who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming are not exempt from this rule.
Why are there four transgender candidates running this year for seats in the Statehouse? They decided to run because of the wave of anti-trans legislation that was passing the legislature.
Among them is House Bill 68, which forbids transgender girls from playing sports in schools and limits access to a variety of medical services for minors who are questioning their gender identity.
HB 68 was vetoed by Gov. Mike DeWine, but the Ohio House overrode the veto last week, and the Ohio Senate will vote on the override next week.
On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Board of Elections confirmed the candidacy of Bobbie Arnold, a West Alexandria-based transgender woman who filed a petition using just her current name.
To represent Preble County, the western parts of Montgomery County, and the northern part of Butler County in the Ohio House, Arnold filed to compete in the Democratic primary.
Republican director of the Board of Elections Jeff Rezabek informed the board that Arnold complied with all of the requirements listed in the state’s candidate handbook.
In a statement, Democratic candidate for the state House from Auglaize County, Arienne Childrey, expressed his opinion that transgender candidates shouldn’t be obliged to include their deceased names on their application materials.
He went on to say that he didn’t think this statute was created with prejudice in mind, but that it was being used as a weapon for transphobic purposes.
Governor DeWine’s Statement About Transgender Candidates
During a recent discussion with the editorial board of Cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer, Governor DeWine stated that modifications were necessary to guarantee that transgender candidates for legislatures would not be excluded from the race merely for failing to disclose their deceased identities.
Later, DeWine sent an email to HuffPost from his press secretary explaining that while the law shouldn’t be amended, candidates who are ignorant of it shouldn’t be disqualified.