Large parties continue to lose voter registration share

The percentage of unaffiliated registered North Carolina voters reached another record high in August, while the Democratic and Republican share of registered voters continues to decline, according to an analysis of the statistics posted on the state Board of Elections website. As of August 6, 24.1 percent of voters registered unaffiliated, 45.63 registered Democratic, 31.52 percent choose Republican, and 0.19 percent registered Libertarian.

While the larger party shares of registered voters are in a long term decline, the number of unaffiliated voters has powered up from less than five percent in 1989 to almost a quarter of the electorate. The non-Demopublican (unaffiliated plus Libertarian) share of voter registration is also at an all-time high of 24.3 percent, a constant increase since February 2009.

The total number of registered voters has increased steadily since April 2011, rising from 6,106,990 to its current high of 6,136,049. Meanwhile, the Democratic share of that figure has decreased since August 2009, going from 45.63 percent to its current low of 44.2 percent. The Republican share also decreased from 31.53 percent in January 2011, down to another record low of 31.52 percent. In addition, the difference between the two large party shares has constantly decreased, from 12.97 in February 2011 to its current low of 12.71 percent.

In August 2005, the Libertarian share of voter registrants was at a record high of 0.24 percent, but was reset to zero when the party lost state recognition under North Carolina’s highly restrictive ballot access laws. Since regaining official recognition in June 2008, the Libertarian share of registered voters has steadily risen. The Libertarian Party is about where it was in April 2003, according these calculations.

Ballot access reform bill still alive

An election bill that would dramatically lower the threshold for a new political party to gain and maintain ballot access in North Carolina may still be considered by the state General Assembly when it reconvenes in July. H.B. 32, The Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, passed the House in a bipartisan 68-49 vote, but the Senate adjourned before considering the measure.

The legislature will return in July primarily to deal with redistricting but may consider other matters, including election law bills.

“We’re hopeful that legislators will pass this bill when the return,” said Jordon M. Greene, president of Free the Vote North Carolina. His group is heading a coalition of political parties and public policy groups from across the political spectrum supporting the bill. The measure has backing from the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties, Democracy NC, the John Locke Foundation and the N.C. League of Women Voters.

“Clearly there’s a broad base of support from across the political spectrum to offer voters more choice on the ballot. We hope the state Senate will consider this and take action,” Greene said. “It is past time that North Carolinians were given as much choice on the ballot as they do in the grocery store.”

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House votes to lower N.C. ballot access barriers

In a bipartisan 67-50 vote, the state House of Representatives approved a bill to dramatically lower the threshold for a new political party to gain and maintain ballot access in North Carolina. The bill lowers the number of signatures a new party must obtain to 0.25 percent of registered voters. That party could then retain ballot status by getting 0.25 percent of the votes for president, governor or any council of state office, whichever is lower.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Lenoir) introduced H.B. 32, the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, with both Republicans and Democrats as primary sponsors. “There’s a wide-variety of membership in support of this bill who have come together for the idea that it is too difficult under present law for those citizens who want to create a small party to get on the ballot,” said Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham), a primary sponsor.

The House vote reflected bipartisan support with 38 Democrats and 29 Republicans voting in favor. The measure also has backing from a broad spectrum of groups from across the political spectrum, including the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties, Democracy NC, the John Locke Foundation and the N.C. League of Women Voters.

“When political parties and public policy groups with such divergent views unite in a common cause it clearly attests to the fact that ballot access reform is not a partisan or special-interest group issue, but a question of fundamental freedom that transcends political and ideological differences,” said Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Edgecombe, Wilson), another primary sponsor.

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House panel votes to lower ballot access barriers

The House elections committee approved a bill today that would dramatically lower the threshold for a new political party to gain and maintain ballot access in North Carolina. The bill lowers the number of signatures a new party must obtain to one-quarter of one percent of the registered voters in the state. That party could then retain ballot status by getting one-quarter of one percent of the voters for president, governor or any council of state office, whichever is lower.

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GOP vice chair endorses ballot access reform bill

The vice chairman of the N.C. Republican Party has endorsed passage of House Bill 32, the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011.

In a statement, Tim Johnson said, “House Bill 32, The Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, is a great opportunity to level the playing field and to give all citizens the equal opportunity to fully participate in the governing of our Republic.”

“As a Republican, I believe this party represents the best choice for Americans, but as a Republican I also believe allowing more political parties and individuals to participate in the electoral process will result in the best ideas and best people winning, and ensure that we’re not stuck with the status quo,” he said.

The bill will dramatically reduce the ballot access restrictions for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates. It would set at 10,000 the number of signatures a new party must collect to be listed on the ballot, or for an unaffiliated candidate to run for a statewide office, including governor, council of state or U.S. Senator.

“We welcome Mr. Johnson’s endorsement and thank him for his support of the individual’s right to self-government,” said Jordon M. Greene, president of Free the Vote North Carolina, the group that originated the bill. “This endorsement is further proof that the issue of free choice and ballot access reform goes beyond partisanship and is truly a matter of basic freedom and equality of opportunity.”

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Wrights donates to Arkansas Libertarian Party ballot access fund

BURNET, Texas (April 12) – Potential Libertarian presidential candidate R. Lee Wrights donated $250 to the Arkansas Libertarian Party ballot access fund, fulfilling the promise he made when he first began his exploratory campaign. Wrights said that he was committed to insuring that the Libertarian message would be heard in all 50 states in 2012. He pledged to donate 10 percent of donations to state ballot access.

“There can’t be anything more important to any political party than ballot access,” Wrights told the party’s state convention Saturday. “Americans cannot vote for liberty and freedom if Libertarians are not on the ballot. Republicans and Democrats have proven to us they are not going to give that to us, in fact, they are going to take more from us at every opportunity.”

Thomas Hill, Wrights 2012 campaign manager, presented the donation to Rodger Paxton, the Arkansas LP state chair. “I’m very proud to be in this room with committed and dedicated Arkansas libertarians who are willing to do the hard work necessary so the residents of Arkansas can have the libertarian option come election day,” Hill said.

Hill told delegates that Arkansas is the first party to get an installment from the campaign and they were looking forward to helping other state parties.

Arkansas Libertarians have 90 days to collect at least 10,000 verified signatures from registered voters. They began the ballot access drive March 29. Arkansas is the only state where the Libertarian Party has never placed a candidate on the ballot for a partisan race other than president. State law only requires 1,000 verified signatures for a presidential candidate.

In order to retain ballot access and bypass the signature-gathering process for the 2014 election, the 2012 Libertarian candidate for president will have to get at least three percent of the vote.

Wrights 2012 press release