Most election laws are ‘flawed’

Two of the major Republican presidential hopefuls are learning what third party and independent candidates have known for years, that ballot access laws in most states are rigged against offering voters any real choices in primaries and on election day, said Jordon Greene, president of Free the Vote North Carolina.

“If Newt Gingrich thinks it’s difficult to get on the Republican primary ballot in Virginia, he ought to try getting a new party or unaffiliated candidate on the ballot in North Carolina,” Greene said in a statement. “Then he’d understand how the major parties limit voter choice by imposing restrictive ballot access laws.

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Electoral freedom on hold until May

There will be no action taken on HB 32, The Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 this year. Sen. Peter S. Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) told Free the Vote NC president Jordon Green bluntly, “There is no chance that HB 32 will be heard during the November 7 session.” He said that many legislators won’t even attend. We take Sen. Brunstetter at his word.

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U.S. appeals court upholds NC ballot access restrictions

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld North Carolina’s restrictive ballot access rules for unaffiliated Congressional candidates. In October, the court ruled in Bryan Greene v. Gary Bartlett that requiring unaffiliated candidates to collect signatures from four percent of the registered voters in the district was Constitutional. This equals about 20,000 signatures in the typical district.

Greene, who attempted to collect signatures to run for Congressional District 10 in 2008, argued that N.C. law severely burdens independent candidates and violates the rights guaranteed in both the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs in the case include Bryan E. Greene, his son Jordon M. Greene, Todd Meister, and intervenor Bradely D. Smith.

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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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‘Gerrymandering’ film airs May 25

North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform will sponsor a free screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Gerrymandering” and an inside look at the significant flaws in our current redistricting process. The screening will be Wednesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. at the Galaxy Cinema, 770 Cary Towne Blvd, Cary.

This entertaining and engaging film looks at the abuse of power that too often occurs when you have politicians drawing their own district lines and choosing their own voters. Following the movie, a panel of experts will lead a discussion on redistricting and its implications here in North Carolina, as well as take questions from the audience.

If you have any questions, please email Brent Laurenz at laurenz@nccve.org or call 919-783-8811. For more information and to see a preview of the film, go here.

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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State Libertarians elect new chair

Matt Drew of Durham County is the new chair of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina. He was elected by a unanimous vote at the party’s annual state convention held in Hickory this weekend. He replaced Barbara Howe, who did not seek re-election.

The convention re-elected the other officers: Bev Wilcox, Rockingham, vice chair; Daniel Change,Wake, recording secretary; John Cavney, Cleveland, treasurer, and; Rick Pasotto, Mecklenberg, membership secretary. In addition, the elected they at-large members of the state executive committee. They are: Bradley Bergh, Buncombe, David Speight, Davidson, Phil Jacobson and Marc Conaghan, Wake County, Alex Vuchnich and Tim Doran, Mecklenberg, Tom Hohman, Union, and JJ Summerell, Guilford.

“There is no such think as a free lunch,” Drew told the delegates, recalling an old libertarian slogan. “We need to get out there and work; it’s a long slog ahead.” He noted that libertarian activists often get burned out, but said “We want you to stay. We need you. In order to make the libertarian movement happen we need everybody here.”

The Libertarians unanimously passed a resolution in support of House Bill 32, the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, which would dramatically reduce the barriers for third parties and unaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot.

“We stand with the Free the Vote Coalition in asserting that ballot access reform is not a partisan or special interest group issue, but a question of fundamental freedom that transcends political differences,” the resolution said. “Free choice on the election ballot is not an issue to be flippantly dismissed but is an issue of utmost importance to democratic ideals.”

The convention also passed a resolution thanking the individuals and organizations that joined in their unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn North Carolina’s restrictive ballot access laws. In that resolution the Libertarian Party expressed “solidarity with the Green Party, the Constitution Party, and all other (Free the Vote) coalition partners past, present and future in the continuing fight for ballot access reform.”

Ballot access case was wrongly decided

A nationally recognized ballot access law expert said the N.C. Supreme Court made a wrong decision in upholding the state’s elections laws. The court ruled last week that the law did not violate the U.S. or state constitutions, putting an end to a five year long challenge by the state Libertarian Party.

“The N.C. Supreme Court certainly wrongly decided the case,” said Richard Winger, founder and editor of Ballot Access News. “It is outrageous that the court ignored an overwhelming amount of evidence in the case.” For example, the court majority said that the 85,379 signature requirement for new political parties was necessary to prevent “frivolous and fraudulent” candidates from getting on the ballot.

“The requirement was not raised in order to stop ballot clutter, as the record in the lawsuit showed,” he said. “The requirement was raised because legislators were upset that the Socialist Workers Party had qualified for the ballot in 1980, the first time that a Marxist political party had ever appeared on a government-printed ballot in North Carolina.” From 1929 to 1981, when only 10,000 signatures were required for a minor party to qualify, only four parties every appeared on the ballot.

Winger also criticized the court for neglecting to rule many subsidiary issues, like whether voters have a right to register into an unqualified party and for including erroneous assumptions and factual errors in their decision.

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