Monday, 01 February 2021 12:55

Green, Constitution parties lose ballot access in North Carolina

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Green, Constitution parties lose ballot access in North Carolina Graphic by Russell Parker - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Thirty-nine registered voters in Richmond County and more than 9,000 across North Carolina are affiliated with parties no longer recognized by the state.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections announced Wednesday morning that the Constitution and Green parties are no longer recognized political parties.

Both parties gained recognition in 2018.

Citing state election law, the SBE defines a recognized political party as:

  • Any group of voters which, at the most recent general election, polled for its candidate for governor, or for presidential electors, at least 2% of the entire vote cast for governor or presidential electors.
  • Any group of voters that files with the State Board of Elections petitions for the creation of a new political party signed by 0.25% of the total number of voters in the most recent election for governor. Also, the petition must be signed by at least 200 registered voters from three N.C. congressional districts.
  • Any group of voters that files documentation that the group of voters had a candidate nominated on the general election ballot of at 70 percent of the states in the most recent presidential election.

According to the SBE, both parties “failed to turn out the required 2% of the total vote for their candidate for governor or for presidential electors in the 2020 general election.”

Election results show Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins received 0.24% of the vote and Constitution Party candidate Don Blankenship garnered 0.14%.

“The decertification of the North Carolina Green Party and Constitution Party is an unfortunate outcome of the 2020 election,” Allen Smith, former Green Party candidate, told the RO. “This was one of the most divisive and clamorous election cycles in recent history, however, so any minor party's inability to meet one of the thresholds for continued ballot access in our state is not incredibly surprising.”

In 2019, Smith ran in the special election for N.C.’s 9th District of the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes Richmond County.

State records show that, as of Jan. 23, there were 3,895 voters registered with the Green Party and 5,167 with the Constitution Party.

Records from the Richmond County Board of Elections show 11 Green Party voters and 28 affiliated with the Constitution Party.

One of those Green Party voters is Jeffery Dutton Smith of Rockingham.

“It would be good to have a strong party on the Left for liberals such as myself (who love their country just as much as the guy on the Right!),” he said. “But if the N.C. Greens are weak, then let political survival of the fittest have its way, and bid farewell to the N.C. Green Party (and Constitution Party).

According to a press release, the SBE will meet Feb. 23 to decide when to switch voters registered with those parties to unaffiliated, which can’t happen until at least 90 days after a General Election.

Kevin Hayes, vice chairman of the Constitution Party of N.C., said they planned to petition to regain ballot access and have requested the board delay changing voters’ registrations.

Hayes added that the party has sent a bill to Sens. Warren Daniel, Ralph Hise and Paul Newton and Rep. Grey Mills — who chair the Redistricting committees in their respective chambers — “to change the law to allow us to keep our registered voters while we are getting back on the ballot.”

Hayes ran for Thom Tillis’ U.S. Senate seat in the recent election, snagging 1.24% of the vote. Libertarian Shannon Hayes had 3.13% and Tillis won reelection in a close race with Democrat Cal Cunningham with 48.69% . Cunningham’s percentage was 46.94%.

The Libertarian Party, according to the SBE, has requested to remain recognized because former presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen was on the ballot in at least 35 states, meeting the 70% requirement.

Results show Jorgensen received 48,678 votes or 0.88% of the vote.

In 2016, two-time Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson garnered 2.74% of the vote in North Carolina — the most of any third-party candidate for president dating back to 2004. Four years earlier, Johnson became the Libertarian candidate after previously running in the Republican primary. That year, he was supported by 0.99% of Tar Heel voters.

The press release states that the SBE is expected to consider the Libertarian Party’s certification during the Feb. 23 meeting.

“Third-party supporters are the real victims here,” Smith said. “These folks, who are often marginalized to begin with, are frequently subjected to vote-shaming and other blunt electoral tactics designed to minimize the amount of support their candidates can receive, and this past election was certainly no exception. It's incredibly disheartening to see a person derided and admonished by their friends and family simply because they refuse to toe a particular partisan line.”

The Libertarian Party of North Carolina is no stranger to ballot access, having sued the state in 2005.

“The current law actually makes it much easier for a party to retain or attain ballot status,” said Brian Irving, a former chairman of LPNC, adding that barriers have been “lowered considerably” from around 100,000 to fewer than 30,000.

While Irving says any bar is “too high,” he adds, ”the reality is there is going to be a bar.”