A transgender candidate in Ohio was disqualified from the state ballot for omitting her former name

Jan 4, 2024, 3:13 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Despite receiving enough signatures to appear on the ballot, a transgender woman has been disqualified from an Ohio House race because she omitted her previous name, raising concern that other transgender candidates nationwide may face similar barriers.

Vanessa Joy of was one of four transgender candidates running for state office in Ohio, largely in response to proposed restrictions of the rights of LGBTQ+ people. She was running as a Democrat in House District 50 — a heavily Republican district in Stark County, Ohio — against GOP candidate Matthew Kishman. Joy legally changed her name and birth certificate in 2022, which she says she provided to the Stark County Board of Elections for the March 19 primary race.

But as Joy found out Tuesday, a little-known 1990s state law says that a candidate must provide any name changes within the last five years to qualify for the ballot. Since the law is not currently listed on the candidate requirement guidelines on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, Joy didn’t know it existed.

To provide her former name, Joy said, would be to use her deadname — a term used by the transgender community to refer to the name given at birth, not one they chose that aligns with their gender identity.

And while Joy said the spirit of the law is to weed out bad actors, it creates a barrier for transgender people who want to run for office and may not want to share their deadname for important reasons, including concern about their personal safety.

“If I had known that I had to put my deadname on my petitions, I personally would have because being elected was important to me,” Joy said. “But for many it would be a barrier to entry because they would not want their names on the petitions.”

She continued, “It’s a danger and that name is dead.”

The Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office and the Stark County Board of Elections did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Thursday. It is not clear if this law has applied to any current or previous state lawmakers.

Rick Hasen, a professor at UCLA School of Law and an election expert, said that requiring candidates to disclose any name changes posed problems in Ohio, but generally serves a purpose. “If a candidate has something to hide in their past like criminal activity, disclosing former names used by the candidate would make sense,” Hasen said in an email.

Sean Meloy, the vice president of political programs for LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ+ candidates, said he does not know of tracking efforts to find how many states require name changes in petition paperwork.

“The biggest issue is the selective enforcement of it,” Meloy said in an interview Thursday.

Over the last few years, many states have ramped up restrictions on transgender people — including barring minors from accessing gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormones. In some states, that has extended to limitations on which school bathrooms trans children and students can use and which sports teams they can join.

Last year, Meloy said, a record number of candidates who are transgender sought and won office, and he expects that trend to continue in 2024.

Ohio lawmakers passed restrictions late last year that were vetoed by the state’s Republican governor, though many Republican state representatives say they’re planning to override that veto as soon as next week.

Meloy said that some conservatives are trying to silence transgender voices.

He pointed to Zooey Zephyr, a transgender lawmaker who was blocked last year from speaking on Montana’s House floor after she refused to apologize for telling colleagues who supported a ban on gender-affirming care that they would have blood on their hands.

“Now that anti-trans legislation is being moved once again,” Meloy said, “this seems like a selectively enforced action to try to keep another trans person from doing that.”

Joy appealed her disqualification Thursday, and is now seeking legal representation. She plans to try to change Ohio’s law.

“We’re going to see this happening all over the place,” she said. “This could be a snowball if I’m just the start of it. This is horrible news for the trans community.”


Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

FILE - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks during a news conference Feb. 22,...

Associated Press

Los Angeles County district attorney seeks reelection in contest focused on feeling of public safety

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County voters are set to decide next month if embattled District Attorney George Gascón will remain the head of the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office in a race centered on perceptions of public safety. Gascón, who was elected in 2020 on a criminal justice platform alongside a wave of progressive […]

44 minutes ago

In combo of undated selfie images provided courtesy of the Dime Doe family, show Dime Doe, a Black ...

Associated Press

A love affair unraveled before a Black transgender woman was fatally shot in rural South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Black transgender woman and the guy she was secretly dating had just been pulled over in rural South Carolina. Dime Doe, the driver, was worried. She already had points against her license and didn’t want another ticket to stop her from getting behind the wheel. Daqua Lameek Ritter, whom she […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Remains found over 50 years ago identified through DNA technology as Oregon teen

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The remains of a teenager found more than 50 years ago have been identified through advanced DNA technology as a young woman who went missing from Portland, Oregon State Police said. The remains are that of Sandra Young, a high school student who disappeared in 1968 or 1969, police said Thursday […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

California man arrested for making threats against election official in Arizona after 2022 vote

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of leaving threatening messages on the personal cellphone of an Arizona election worker he accused of rigging the 2022 election results, federal prosecutors said. The 52-year-old was charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat and will make an initial court […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Two more candidates file papers to run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two more candidates filed paperwork Thursday to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballots for U.S. Senate as Democratic Sen. Bob Casey runs for a fourth term and Democrats try to maintain a majority in the narrowly divided chamber. Brandi Tomasetti, a Republican from Lancaster County, and William Parker, a Democrat from Allegheny […]

4 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

A transgender candidate in Ohio was disqualified from the state ballot for omitting her former name