News release from the Libertarian Party of North Carolina
The N.C. Appeals Court decision upholding the state’s restrictive ballot access laws is “a shameful day for our state,” said Dr. Mike Munger, 2008 Libertarian Party candidate for governor.
“I am sympathetic to the position the judges find themselves in,” Dr. Munger said. “While we wish that the other two members of the panel had voted with Judge (Ann Maria) Calabria, the core problem here is in the General Assembly.”
Dr. Munger, chair of Duke University political science department agreed that judges properly show substantial deference to the legislature in these sorts of ‘time, place, and manner’ of elections.
“But at some point our justice system is going to have to take up the cause of the citizens, because right now the General Assembly is letting us down,” he said.
“The North Carolina Constitution guarantees a citizen’s right to vote for the party or candidate of their choice. Right now, that right is being denied. The courts are bending over backwards to give the legislature a chance to make this right. So, for now, the ball is once more in the court of the General Assembly.”
“The problem is that neither the Democrat nor Republican power-brokers want to let anyone else in on their duopoly,” said Barbara Howe, Libertarian Party state chair.
Howe said that in the next election cycle, North Carolina will probably have the largest signature requirement of any state, an estimated 90,000 signatures just to be able to put a name on the ballot.
“Our question to the General Assembly is: Are you going to continue to shame North Carolina with some of the most restrictive laws in the nation,” said Howe.
“Or are you going to bring laws in North Carolina into balance with those of the rest of the states? States like South Carolina, which require only 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot? Or Tennessee, which requires only 25 signatures.”
Since this was a 2-1 decision the full court will automatically hear the case if one of the parties requests it. Howe said the Libertarians will almost certainly make such a request.
Howe said Libertarians were heartened by Judge Calabria’s dissenting opinion, in which she said, “North Carolina’s two percent statewide requirements for both ballot access and ballot retention place too onerous a burden on the fundamental rights of members of third parties under the State Constitution.”
Judge Calabria noted that the state permits ballot access under far less burdensome requirements for unaffiliated candidates, and thus has proven that it can accomplish its “compelling interest” in ballot regulation in a less restrictive fashion.
The “… compelling interests of the people of North Carolina … are thwarted by the ballot access statutes,” the judge said.
While it is ultimately the role of the legislature, rather than the court, to determine a precise method of ballot access and retention, she said. “However, ballot access statutes must, at the very least, allow both political parties and unaffiliated candidates equal access to the ballot,”she said.
The law is especially unfair because it forces a new or previously unqualified party to either qualify statewide, or not at all, Judge Calabria said.
The majority decision included a comment that Texas’ ballot access law had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that Texas law also requires a party to qualify statewide or not at all. This is an error, according to Ballot Access News.
“In fact, Texas has always had procedures for a party that is not qualified statewide to get on the ballot in a single county,” reported Richard Winger, a nationally-recognized ballot access expert. Winger testified on behalf of the Libertarian Party at the trial.
“This decision, like the original decision by the Superior Court, completely fails to mention any of the other issues we raised, including the issue of whether the state should let voters register with parties that aren’t ballot-qualified,” said Howe.
The case was filed in 2005.