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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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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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.