RALEIGH — After a long back-and-forth battle on whether there were enough valid signatures on the N.C. Green Party’s petition to become a recognized party in the 2022 midterms, the N.C. Board of Elections determined that, while there was some fraud by certain collectors, the fraudulent signatures were not enough to push the Green Party below the number of signatures needed.
Board director, Karen Brinson Bell, said that the board staff’s investigation did uncover fraud. But in there extensive investigations, Katelyn Love, the staff attorney, said after everything was considered, the Green Party still had 1,607 signatures more than they needed.
Love said the counties were asked to review each of the submitted signatures again in light of complaints from Elias Law Group and others that fraudulent signatures had been verified.
After the counties reviewed the pages again, over 400 addition signatures were disqualified. These included any signatures with a past Green Party chairman’s signature, because it was seen as evidence that the pages were from a prior petition effort.
They also removed any sheets that were submitted late. Love said about two dozen signatures came in after the deadline. But the county’s reported that otherwise, “petitions were correctly decided.”
There were also some questions about those who said they never signed, said they were misled into signing, or those who contacted the board to have their names removed. These signatures amounted to about 290. Love said board staff recommended reviewing these 290 further if that number was greater than the margin by which the Green Party was over the number of signatures needed for certification.
But being 1,607 signatures over, they didn’t recommend investigating those 290 signatures further and recommended recognizing the Green Party as a party. Love also said there were questions on whether it was even possible for someone to remove their name from a petition.
Love said they were going to continue the investigation into the fraudulent signatures, but the collectors who had committed fraud were not cooperating with investigators.
“What do we know?” Love said. “We know that there are two collectors who submitted fraudulent signatures, but these collectors also submitted valid signatures.”
At least 848 signatures associated with those two collectors were initially rejected in the initial counts, and 624 were accepted. Love said that many of the 624 were likely among the 400+ that were removed from verified category by the county boards.
There were also questions about a Michigan contractor, but the board staff was unsure if any of their 109 signatures had ever been verified.
After Brinson Bell and Love’s staff report on the investigation, the board discussed the findings and the recommendation to approve. Oliver Hall, the Green Party’s attorney, was given a chance to comment, but was not present.
After discussion, Board Chair Damon Circosta made a motion, seconded by board member Stacy Eggers, to approve the Green Party’s petition to be recognized as a party. The board unanimously approved the motion, although board member Tommy Tucker had difficulty getting in the meeting and was not present.
Afterwards, Circosta spoke briefly about the pressure the board had been under to review these signatures the right way, not the quick way. He also said that there was no political motive behind any delays.
The N.C. Green Party’s U.S. Senate candidate, Matthew Hoh, who will still have to be approved in a court hearing on Aug. 8 to gain access to the ballot, responded on Twitter after the decision, saying:
This morning the @NorthCarolinaGP was certified by the North Carolina State Board of Elections!
I am so grateful for the hard work of so many who worked to make this happen!https://t.co/ASabEMNM97
— Matthew Hoh for Senate (@MatthewPHoh) Aug. 1, 2022
Members of the Green Party were removed from the rolls after the party was not initially accepted. The board said those who wished to register as a member of the N.C. Green Party would have to reregister.
The decision to approve the N.C Green Party as an official party came as a shift after Circosta had indicated after the vote not to approve at the June 30 meeting, that any further action would have to be taken “by another body.”