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Trans candidate booted from ballot because she didn’t tell everyone her deadname

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Vanessa Joy, a transgender woman who hoped to run for an Ohio House seat, has been disqualified from the race for not including her deadname on petitions circulated to potential voters.

News 5 Cleveland reports that Joy had collected enough signatures to run as a Democrat for Ohio’s firmly Republican House District 50. But she recently learned that her name would not appear on the ballot due to an obscure state law requiring candidates to disclose any name changes that have taken place within the last five years. Candidates who got married and changed their names, though, don’t have to disclose name changes.

“I would have had to have my deadname on my petitions,” she said. “But in the trans community, our dead names are dead; there’s a reason it’s dead — that is a dead person who is gone and buried.”

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“It would be fair for the candidate to disclose their identity including prior names so that the people and their representatives in the state government would be able to vet that person and know exactly who they are,” Case Western Reserve University elections law professor Atiba Ellis said of the 1995 law, which does include an exception for candidates who have changed their names due to marriage.

But, Ellis added, “If it is selectively enforced, that raises the question of whether the use of such provisions would be discriminatory.”

Beyond the fraught issues around trans people being required to disclose their deadnames, Joy said that she was unaware of the law. It is not mentioned in the Ohio secretary of state’s 2024 candidate guide, and according to News 5 it has not been included in previous candidate guides in recent years. Joy provided journalist Erin Reed with copies of her candidacy petition form showing that they do not include any mention of the requirement or space in which to list any name changes.

“Something that is that important should have been on the instructions,” Joy said. “It should have been on the petition.”

Joy told Reed that she is “one of the first, if not the first, people that this law has been applied to in Ohio.”

She is one of at least four other trans candidates running for office in Ohio this year, but as Reed notes, none of the others seem to have had their candidacies challenged under the little-known law. News 5 reports that two other trans candidates in Ohio were also unaware of the law, but both had their candidacies certified.

Joy told News 5 that she thinks the law will “undoubtedly” prevent other trans people from running for office in the future.

She has until Friday to challenge her disqualification and told Reed that she is hoping to get legal representation “to challenge the wording of this law and make it more inclusive to trans folx.”


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