N.C. Supreme Court upholds ballot access law

The N.C. Supreme Court has upheld the state laws that give North Carolina the second most restrictive ballot access requirements in the nation. The justices ruled 5-1 that they were “not persuaded” that ballot access is a “fundamental right.”

“Indeed, ballot access rights, though distinct from voting rights, are central to the administration of our democracy,” said Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, writing for the majority. “While these rights are of utmost importance to our democratic system, they are not absolute.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Paul Newby countered, “Ballot access implicates our citizenry’s freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom to vote.”

The state Libertarian Party brought the suit in 2005, contending that North Carolina’s elections laws unduly restrict the rights to freedom of speech, association and due process. The complaint challenged the constitutionality of the “entire scheme” of the state’s elections laws under the North Carolina Constitution. The N.C. Green Party later joined the lawsuit.

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House committee discusses election reform bill

A subcommittee of the state House elections committee considered House Bill 32, The Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 March 2. The bill would dramatically reduce the ballot access restrictions for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates by reducing the number of signatures they must gather to qualify for the ballot. HB32 would set the signature requirements at 10,000 for a new party or for an unaffiliated candidate running for statewide office, including governor, council of state or U.S. Senator.

It would also set fixed numbers for other offices, including U.S. House, state House and Senate and local offices.

The consensus among subcommittee members was to change from fixed numbers to percentages. The members who supported this idea cited the state’s growing population and the need to pass a law that they would not have to come back to change in a few years. They discussed using one-quarter of one percent of the vote for governor for new parties and statewide unaffiliated candidates, and one-half of one percent for district and local races.

Some representatives voiced their concern over the bills elimination of the write-in candidate signature requirement as well. It is likely that the section regarding write-ins will either be stricken from the bill or revised to call for some number of signatures less than those called for unaffiliated candidates in the bill.

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FairVote joins the Free the Vote Coalition

FairVote Action has joined the Free the Vote Coalition, a group formed to work for passage of a bill to dramatically reduce the ballot access restrictions for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates.

FairVote is a catalyst for reforming our elections to respect every vote and every voice through bold approaches to increase voter turnout, meaningful ballot choices and fair representation.

“That brings the coalition membership to eight public policy organizations, six political parties and one news source, a total of fifteen separate and politically diverse organizations,” said Jordon Green, Free the Vote North Carolina president, organizer of the coalition. Free the Vote NC is a non-partisan political action committee dedicated to protecting freedom of speech, association and the right to vote of every North Carolinian through education, research and legislative advocacy.

House Bill 32, the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, 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.

A subcommittee of the N.C. House elections committee will hold an informational meeting, March 2 to discuss the bill. The purpose of the meeting is for committee members to ask questions and raise concerns. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Stephen LaRoque, they likely will work on a “committee substitute.”

Sen. Andrew Brock (R-34) will file a companion bill to HB32 in the state Senate this week. That bill is also expected to have bi-partisan support, including Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird (D-23).

The Free the Vote Coalition now includes the Conservative, Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Modern Whig, and Reform parties, Ballot Access News, the N.C. Center for Voter Education, N.C. Common Cause, Democracy NC, Fair Vote, the Free and Equal Foundation, and the John Locke Foundation.

Opposing war doesn’t make you a pacifist

“The only defensible war is a war of defense.”
– C.K. Chesterton

One of the most misunderstood principles of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. The belief that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatsoever; nor advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else including government is the very essence of the non-aggression principle. The misconception starts when we use the phrase “initiation of force.” People tend to focus on the last word and ignore or forget the first.

Most libertarians are not pacifists so our adherence to the non-aggression principle doesn’t mean we won’t defend ourselves. On the contrary, the right to self-defense is inherent in the concept of self-ownership. It is absolutely necessary for every individual to be prepared always to defend him or herself. Your life is too precious to trust it to the hands of strangers.

There seems to be similar confusion with the understanding of the theme of this exploratory campaign – stop all war. That theme was chosen based on the feedback and comments I’ve been hearing from Libertarians across the nation for the past several years. They are asking why the Libertarian Party isn’t out front in the anti-war movement. The questioning was particularly strong and passionate from many of the young people who were delegates to the 2010 national convention in St. Louis.

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Lowering ballot barriers for ‘third parties,’ unaffiliated candidates

by Brian Irving

A bill to dramatically reduce the ballot access restrictions for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates was introduced in the state General Assembly Feb. 3.  House Bill 32, The Electoral FreFree the Vote Coalitionedom Act of 2011, would set at 10,000 the number of signatures a new party must collect to be listed on the ballot. It would establish the same number for unaffiliated candidate to run for a statewide office, including governor, council of state or U.S. Senator.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-10) and co-sponsored by Reps. Glen Bradley (R49), Paul Luebke (D-11) and Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-24). Bert Jones, the only unaffiliated member of the House, is a co-sponsor, along with Larry Hall (D-29), Pricey Harrison (D-57),  Harry Warren (R-77), Jonathan Jordon (R-93), Rodney Moore (D-99), and Jennifer Weiss (D-35).

Several alternative political parties and electoral reform groups have formed the Free the Vote Coalition in support of the bill. The coalition is a project of Free the Vote North Carolina, a non-partisan political action committee dedicated to protecting freedom of speech, association and the right to vote of every North Carolinian through education, research and legislative advocacy.

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Free the Vote Coalition formed

Free the Vote North Carolina has announced formation of the Free the Vote Coalition, an alliance of the state’s alternative political parties and several electoral reform groups, who have banded together to enact major ballot access reform this year.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Lenoir Republican, is expected to file the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 this week. It will be co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat. The bill will dramatically reduce the restrictions placed on new political parties and unaffiliated candidates attempting to get on the ballot.

“The Free the Vote Coalition is a truly non-partisan alliance of alternative political parties and public policy groups joined together in the common cause of the right to vote,” said Jordon Greene, founder and president of Free the Vote NC in announcing formation of the coalition.

In addition to Free the Vote NC, coalition members include the Conservative, Constitution, Green, Libertarian, and the Modern Whig parties, the N.C. Center for Voter Education, NC Common Cause, Democracy NC, and the John Locke Foundation.

“These groups have joined together to work to restore the right of every citizen to vote for the candidate of their choice, a right currently denied by the state’s exploitative, unequal and free speech stifling laws that keep most alternative political parties and unaffiliated candidates off the election ballot,” Greene said.

Greene said that it was very significant that the coalition includes political parties and groups representing all shades and colors of the political spectrum.

“North Carolina has the second most restrictive ballot access laws in the entire nation,” noted Greene. “This scheme is deliberately intended to impede competition to the two major parties by placing unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on any potential electoral competitors through restrictive signature requirements unparalleled in most other states.”

Key provision of the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 are:

  • Reduce the number of signatures a new political party needs obtain for ballot access to the fixed figure of 10,000.
  • Reduce the number of votes a new political party must get in order to remain on the ballot the fixed number 10,000 for any statewide candidate.
  • Reduce the number of signatures an unaffiliated candidate for statewide offices needs to obtain to the fixed figure of 10,000.
  • Set a fixed number of signatures for unaffiliated candidates to run for U.S. House, the state General Assembly and local office.

For more on the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, go to Free the Vote NC.

Partisan redistricting lets politicians pick their voters

The last time the state General Assembly tried to come up with a redistricting plan, the state Supreme Court had to do if for them. That could happen again.

When the Republicans were in the minority, they proposed that an independent non-partisan group handle redistricting and the Democrats rebuffed the effort. Now the party roles and positions are reversed. What remains constant is that third parties and unaffiliated voters will probably still be left out of the process.

Having Democrats and Republicans draw up the new districts is like playing a Duke-Carolina football game where the players act as referees. “We’ve seen the ugly result when politicians get to draw their own districts,” said Libertarian state chair Barbara Howe. “Let someone who knows the game but doesn’t have any players on the field sort it out.”

Howe said she believes an independent group can draw new General Assembly districts that will limit splitting counties and also meet U.S. Department of Justice guidelines. Mike Smith, a Davidson County libertarian did just that in 2002, but the plan wasn’t even looked at by legislators.

Smith’s plan then focused on population, compactness and followed recognizable boundaries. He said then that he believed most voters were more interested in simplicity and uniformity than in trying to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of people in it.

“By sticking to county lines, our plan will put voters with similar interests together and increase the number of candidates they can choose from,” said Howe. “More voters would participate in elections if their representation was determined for their benefit, instead of for the sole benefit of incumbent politicians.”

When political parties draw up the districts, you in effect have a system where elected officials pick the voters rather than voters picking the elected officials. That is the exact opposite of what the founders of our nation intended.

“Electoral gerrymanders aren’t just opportunities for political mischief,” said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation. “They do real damage to self-government. When counties, municipalities, and other geographical communities are shredded into bits of thread and stitched into weird paisley designs on a map, it robs voters of basic information – who represents me? – and makes it harder to ensure effective legislative representation.”

The Locke Foundation and the N.C. Center for Government and Lobbying Reform favor an independent redistricting commission. But Hood said he believes the rules used for redistricting are more important that the process of redistricting.

He proposes that the two parties commit themselves to neutral, binding constraints such as compactness and respecting jurisdictional lines. Once the rules are in place, they should prepare and vote on the maps early in the legislative session. Finally, they should put these rules into a state constitutional amendment and submit it to the voters in 2012.

Rep. LaRoque to introduce ballot access reform bill

Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-10) has agreed to sponsor an election law reform bill supported by Free the Vote North Carolina. The Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 would dramatically reduce the number of signatures required to a fixed figure for a new political party or an unaffiliated candidate to qualify for the ballot.

“I am proud to sponsor the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011,” said LaRoque. “North Carolina’s current ballot access laws make it very difficult for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot. That’s not consistent with a representative form of government.”

“Our state’s election laws impose excessive and unreasonable requirements on new political parties and unaffiliated candidates that are far and above the standard prevalent in a majority of the other states,” LaRoque said. “I believe it’s time for North Carolina to follow their example and reduce those burdens.”

“We’re pleased to have Rep. LaRoque sponsor this bill,” said Jordon Greene, president and founder of Free the Vote NC. “North Carolina has some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the United States. Our election laws deny citizens their right to vote for candidates of their choice, their right to run for office, and their right to freedom of association to form alternative political parties to place candidates on the ballot.”

“Together, these regulations fundamentally degrade the purpose of government, of our representative democracy, effectively denying citizens real representation, something the founders were adamant about,” Greene said.

Key provisions of the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 are to:

  • Reduce the number of signatures a new political party needs to obtain for ballot access to the fixed figure of 10,000.
  • Reduce the number of votes a new political party must receive in order to remain on the ballot to 1,000 for that party’s candidate for president, governor or any other council of state office.
  • Reduce the number of signatures an unaffiliated candidate for statewide offices needs to obtain to the fixed figure of 5,000.
  • Set a fixed number of signatures for unaffiliated candidates to run for U.S. House, General Assembly and local offices in line with neighboring states.

For the text of the bill go here.

Free the Vote North Carolina press release

U.S. justice argues citizens can’t defend voting rights in court

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys argued in a Washington DC Federal courtroom Monday that neither voters nor candidates had the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of federal law.

The case involved citizens from Kinston who were challenging the DOJ’s overturning a municipal referendum in which voters overwhelming approved changing the city’s elections from partisan to nonpartisan.

The DOJ claimed that making ballot access more difficult doesn’t injure a candidate and therefore doesn’t given them grounds to sue. Writing in National Review Online Hans von Spakovsky called this argument “strained and hypocritical.”

“This position completely contradicts the position the department has taken on numerous prior occasions when it has argued that ballot-qualification requirements violated Section 5 (of the Voting Rights Act of 1965),” he wrote.

Spakovsky wrote that it was “embarrassing” and “astonishing” to see NAACP lawyer Anita Earls argue citizens don’t have standing to see the U.S. Attorney General or contest the constitutionality of federal law. “It was astonishing to watch the NAACP, which shared the government’s argument time as interveners in the lawsuit, argue for restricted access to the courts by aggrieved voters — like their members.”

For background on the lawsuit, go to Free the Vote NC.

Read the complete National Review Online article here.

Free the Vote NC gives 10 candidates an 'A'

Free the Vote North Carolina has awarded an A rating to 10 candidates for the state General Assembly. The candidates, all challengers, include five Libertarians and five Republicans.

“We endorse these candidates because they believe, as we do, that our state’s restrictive ballot access laws must be reformed,” said Jordon Greene, Free the Vote NC founder and president. “They all have indicated by their responses that they agree North Carolina’s ballot access laws unfairly restrict the right of citizens to run for office and to vote for the person or political party of their choice.”

Free the Vote NC is a political action committee whose goal is to restore competition in the state’s elections by reducing or eliminating ballot access restrictions. Greene said they mailed surveys to all candidates for the General Assembly in the general election, but only 20 replied.

“While we’re disappointed in such a poor response, that response in itself is telling,” Greene says. “It tells us either that the candidates don’t agree with electoral reform or that they don’t think it is an important issue to North Carolinians. In either case, it is clear that we have our work cut out for us to restore free elections to our state.”

The candidates receiving “A” ratings are:

  • Stephanie Watson (Libertarian) – NC Senate 16
  • Barry Coe (Libertarian) – NC Senate 24
  • Cedric Scott (Republican) – NC Senate 38
  • Richard Evey (Libertarian) – NC Senate 44
  • Herb Sobel (Libertarian) – NC House 3
  • Steven LaRoque (Republican) – NC House 10
  • Barbara Howe (Libertarian) – NC House 32
  • Harry Warren (Republican) – NC House 77
  • Paul Terrell (Republican) – NC House 33
  • Samuel Edwards (Republican) – NC House 118

Go to FreeTheVoteNC.com to read the complete survey and the candidates’ responses.