NC Legislature Overrides Veto of Most Significant Ballot Access Bill in Decades

The NC General Assembly has overridden Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the most significant ballot access bill passed by that body in decades.It will become law Jan. 1, 2018.

North Carolina’s Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties issued this statement hailing the vote::

“SB 656 Electoral Freedom Act is the most significant ballot access bill passed by the legislature in decades. It dramatically lowers the barriers for new political parties and independent candidates to get on the ballot, thus giving all North Carolinians more freedom of choice on election day,” the statement said.

“The bill will allow new parties to attain ballot access by collecting signatures from registered voters equal in number to 0.25% of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent general election for Governor. This aligns NC election laws with the majority of states.

“A party will also be able to get on the ballot if it had a presidential candidate on the ballot in 35 states in the previous election.

“Our state’s election laws have long imposed excessive and unreasonable requirements on new political parties and unaffiliated candidates far and above the standard in most states. A viable and vibrant democratic process requires that ballot access laws encourage and promote – not limit – the individual’s right to self-government by securing their right to free choice at the ballot box. It’s about time North Carolina reduced those burdens.

“At its heart, this is a voting rights bill. It is unfortunate that the media has ignored the most significant parts of this bill. The judicial primary provision is only a minor part of the bill and it only affects one election in one year. The bulk of this bill will give voters more choices in more elections for many more years.

“This is the most dramatic improvement in ballot access anywhere in the nation in 20 years, when Florida reduced its petition barrier for offices, other than president, for both minor parties and independents from three percent of the number of registered voters to zero, according to ballot access expert Richard Winger.

“This bill could also influence policy across the nation. Republican-majority legislatures in Tennessee and Indiana, and perhaps Alabama, may pass similar bills.

“Our three parties have been working together on this issue for decades, despite our differences on other issues. We’ve also had the support of individual Democrats and Republicans, as well as public policy groups from across the political spectrum, most notably Free the Vote North Carolina.

“We are also grateful to former Sen. Andrew Brock who introduced this bill, and thank all those Republicans and Democrats who supported the bill.”

Susan Hogarth
Chair, Libertarian Party of North Carolina

Jan Martell and Tony Ndege
Co-chairs, North Carolina Green Party

Al Pisano
Chair, Constitution Party of North Carolina

Cooper Vetos Bill Smashing Ballot Access Barrier

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed SB 656, the most significant ballot access reform bill in NC’s modern history. Once again, an establishment party has place politics over principle. Democrats have always claimed to champion “voter rights.” Yet the governor vetoed a bill that would have given all voters the right to vote for more people for all officers because of the claim that canceling judicial primaries in one year is “taking away the right of the people to vote for the judge of their choice.”

In his veto message, the governor claims this is the “first step toward a constitutional amendment that would rig the system so that the legislature would pick everybody’s judges in every district instead of letting the people vote for the judges they want.”

This reasoning is curious because no such constitutional amendment bill exists. And even it did, a majority of North Carolina voters would have to approve it.  So how would that be rigging the system? That is how a constitutional republic works.

Sadly, SB 656 has become entangled in the partisan “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I” bickering. The original version of the bill passed the state Senate unanimously in April. A slightly revised version passed the House in June in a bipartisan vote. In fact, only seven Republican opposed it.

The bill went to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the versions. Unfortunately, when it got to the Senate floor this week, Republicans attached an unrelated provision to cancel the 2018 judicial primaries to the bill. This drew Democratic opposition, and no Democrats voted for the final version of the bill when it passed both houses.

UPDATE: The General Assembly may vote on an override of this veto Tuesday.

It is not clear when the legislature will consider an override vote. It may not come until the short session in January. Meanwhile, all advocates can do is call, email or possibly visit their legislators and the leadership of both parties, and ask them to put principle over politics. Here are some talking points to use when contacting your legislator. If you legislator asks for additional information, please contact me.

Look up your state legislator.

House Leadership

Senate Leadership

Meanwhile, NC’s “major” media have misrepresented, or missed, the impact of this bill, instead focusing on the partisan squabbling over a judicial primary.  Only the Carolina Journal reported on the primary purpose of the bill.

Earlier post.

NC’s Ballot Access Barrier Smashed

The NC General Assembly just passed the most significant ballot access reform bill in modern state history, dramatically lowering the ballot access barrier for political parties and independent candidates.
SB 656 Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 reduces the number of signatures a “new” political party must collect to get on the ballot to a number equal to 0.25 percent of the vote for governor in the last election. The previous barrier was two percent. Currently, that is about 11,000 signatures, rather than 89,366.
A party can also get state recognition if it had a presidential candidate on the ballot in 35 states in the previous election. It also lowers the signature barrier for an independent (unaffiliated) running for statewide office, or district office other than the General Assembly, from 2 to 1.5 percent.
Under these new rules, it’s almost certain the Green Party, and possibly the Constitution Party, can qualify for the NC ballot in time for the 2020 presidential election.
Unfortunately, a provision regarding judicial primaries that some people in one of the establishment parties don’t like may jeopardize the bill. There are indications the governor may veto it. If that happens, we are not certain the legislature can — or will — override.
As former chair of the LPNC, I’ve been working with a broad coalition spanning the political spectrum led by Free the Vote NC. The coalition included Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, and Constitutionalists, as well as public policy groups ranging from Democracy NC to the John Locke Foundation.
Political parties, public policy groups and individuals with such divergent views uniting in such a common cause clearly attest 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 differences.

Republican state Sen. Andrew Broke introduced the original version of the bill in April, and it passed Senate unanimously. A slightly different version of the bill passed the state House 107-7 in June with only Republicans opposing it.

The bill went to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions. When it got to the Senate floor this week, Republicans attached an unrelated provision to cancel the 2018 judicial primaries to the bill. This drew Democratic opposition, and no Democrats voted for the final version of the bill when it passed both houses.

The Republicans are also attempting to redraw judicial district lines in a separate bill.

A Radical Solution to the Redistricting Farce

The first speaker at yesterday’s redistricting hearings accused the Republicans of “acting like Nazis” and later speakers called them white supremacists. Fortunately, most of the other speakers, while passionate in the opposition, were more rational. But the emotions evoked by this sham of a process is real.

Duke professor Claudia Koonz likened the political discourse in North Carolina to what occurred in Germany in the 1920s and ‘30s. She did not play the “Nazi card,” but citing from her book “The Nazi Conscience” said that it was this unbridgeable divide that destroyed democracy in Germany, not Adolph Hitler. (I plan to read her book). She feared the same was happening here, now.

Many speakers rightly called this process what it is, a sham and a farce. These maps may be “less squiggly” but not substantially different than the maps ruled unconstitutional. They were clearly drawn to preserve or increase the Republican control of the General Assembly. Rep. David Lewis, committee co-chair, not only doesn’t deny this, he’s proud of it.

These maps may be “legal” but they are not just or fair.

They were released to the public only days before this hearing. The hearings were held in places designed to deliberately limit public input; most of the rooms held less than 100 people and the hearings started at a time when most people are still at work. The limited the time people had to speak and in Raleigh, in the legislative office building, even had the sergeant-at-arms threaten to remove people who applauded or reacted to any speaker. “We cannot allow that here,” he said.

It’s clear the majority party has no interest or desire to consider what the people have to say, let alone to draw fair and impartial maps. They are absolutely not interested in changing to an independent, nonpartisan redistricting process.

Lest anyone think I’m picking on Republicans, the Democrats are no better. They’ve had ample time and the resources to produce alternative maps but they have not. Instead, they preach about unfairness and suppressing the vote, and file lawsuits. As the opposition party they are worse than useless.

Democrats claim Republicans want to suppress the vote. Republicans accuse Democrats of voter fraud. But the real voter suppression, the actual voter fraud is this gerrymandering process.

The Solution

The people need to take charge. The solution is simple – but radical. All Democrats and Republicans who as fed up with this farce as I am should make their voices heard in the only way your tribal party leaders will hear; change your registration to Unaffiliated. Then either run for a seat yourself or get behind some other independent voter who will.

If you’re so inclined, join the Libertarian Party, or work with the Green Party or Constitution Party.

The only way the people are going to get districts free from partisan politics and not drawn to favor any party, any candidate, any lawmaker, or any special interest group – districts which embody the ideal of one-person-one vote – is if the people draw them.

2016 Election Analysis

Looking over the General Assembly results, here are some key points of interest. In the NC Senate, 15 candidates ran unopposed (11 Republicans and 3 Democrats). There would have been two more if not for a Libertarian candidate in districts 20 and 44. (Thank you, Barbara Howe and Nick Haag). Of the contested races, only 4 were decided by 10% or less of the vote. In other words, only 8% of the state Senate races were competitive.

In the House, 54 candidates ran unopposed (37 Democrats and 17 Republicans), one ran only against a write-in, and 9 races were decided by 10% or less of the vote. In other words, only 7.5% of the state House races were competitive.

The Democrats and their sycophants love to moan about how the Republicans are destroying democracy, yet they lacked the courage to challenge the Republicans in 28 legislative races.

In a few of the competitive races, the Libertarian vote “covered the spread” between the Democrat and Republican. In House 49 David Ulmer got 4.15% and the incumbent Republican lost by 1.48%. Over in House 36 Brian Irving got 4.25% and the incumbent Republican won by only 2.77%.

In Senate 17 Susan Hogarth got 4.24% and the incumbent Republican won by only 0.85%. In Senate 15 Brad Hessel came in just under the spread. He got 4.31% and the incumbent Republican won by 4.32%

For comparison, in 2014 there were 18 unopposed races in the Senate and 57 in the House. Three Senate and 21 House seats were unopposed in both 2014 and 2016: Senate 32, 35, and 43, and House 4, 12, 14, 19, 21, 24, 29, 39, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 99, 100, 102, 107, 108, 110, 111, and 114.

If you look at a map, you’ll note how the safe districts are clustered. Another point is that both establishment parties benefit nearly equally.

Keep in mind that the district lines a liable to change for the 2018 election. The legislature is contesting a court ruling that some of these districts are unconstitutional and may be forced to redraw the lines.

Libertarians Say Repeal HB2

The Libertarian Party has joined the growing list of organizations calling for the repeal of House Bill 2.

“The state has no authority to determine gender,” the unanimous resolution states. HB 2 also “unduly intrudes state authority into local decision-making and unreasonably limits the ability of the citizens … to govern themselves.”

In addition, the bill reduces individual rights because it “bans citizens from using state courts to remedy discrimination”

Nic Haag, Libertarian candidate for NC Senate 44, introduced the resolution. It was endorsed by General Assembly candidates Brad Hessel, NC Senate 15, Brian Irving, NC House 36, and Rob Rose, NC 37.

The convention was held in Raleigh last weekend.

The convention also passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the ban on counting write-in votes. The state does not count the votes for persons who haven’t gathered enough petition signatures.

This “amounts to the legislature picking and choosing which votes to count, sometimes yielding suspicious results like unanimous vote tallies in our statewide elections,” the resolutions says.

Six candidates for the Libertarian presidential nomination participated in a forum Saturday. They included former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, the party’s 2012 standard-bearer.

In other business, the convention elected at-large members to the state executive committee and adopted a revised platform. It also selected delegates to the Libertarian National Convention and nominated presidential electors.

Read the resolutions here.

Let the People Choose Who Represents Them

Once again, North Carolina’s elections are under a cloud. A U.S. District Court panel just ruled two Congressional districts unconstitutional.

The people of North Carolina deserve a process where they choose their representatives, not the other way around. When it reconvenes in April, the state House should immediately consider and bring to a vote House Bill 92 to establish a nonpartisan redistricting process.

Under this bill, the redistricting plan would be drawn up by a legislative office and submitted to the legislature for an up or down vote. It is based on the system used in Iowa successfully for years.

For decades, North Carolina has had the most litigated redistricting process in the nation. Both Democrats and Republicans put partisan politics ahead of the interests of the people. As a result, elections were delayed and representation denied.

When the Democrats controlled the process, the Republicans cried foul and challenged the plans in court. Now that Republicans are in power, they act no better. Whichever party is on top invariably acts in the same, self-serving way.

Even though only two Congressional districts were ruled unconstitutional, redrawing the lines will have a ripple effect in adjoining districts. The problem goes far beyond using race to draw lines. The process is fundamentally flawed. The people of North Carolina need and deserve better.

The state Libertarian Party supports an independent, nonpartisan, open, and transparent redistricting process. Party registration, voting history data, and the incumbent’s place of residence shouldn’t be considered when drawing district lines.

Brian Irving for NC House 36

Welcome to my blog, which will double as the website for my campaign for NC House 36. Read “Why I Am Running.” In short, I’m running because I believe the people of North Carolina can do a better job of running their lives than politicians.

You can also follow my campaign on Facebook.

Check out my stand on the Issues. Read my responses to the Surveys I’ve received.

Vote No on the Bond Boondogle

Against_the_Bond

There will be a $2 billion bond issue on the March 15 ballot called Connect NC. This is another bipartisan boondoggle with a deceptive name. The loan request is not for transportation funding or K-12 education projects.

The $2 billion will go into the “Connect NC” fund, a committee chaired by a whole host of politicians, who will divvy up 66 percent of the money to the NC college systems, and hundreds of millions of dollars to parks, zoos, agricultural “research,” and other political pet projects across the state.

The only thing this bond will connect is your wallet to the special interest groups that support it. As with most programs touted as bipartisan, the more bipartisan support a bill has, the worse it is for your liberty and your well-being.

Bonds are just deferred taxes. They are taxes on our children and grandchildren. It is simply a lie that this bond issue will not result in a raise in taxes. Someone will have to pay for the the interest when the bonds are repaid, and you can bet it won’t be the Democrats and Republican legislators, or the lobbyists and special interest groups who support this bill.

Since tyranny is usually better organized – and funded – than liberty, the effort to promote this bipartisan boondoggle program to increase the debt is well funded by special interest groups.

But a grassroots referendum committee, NC Against the Bond, is organizing a petition drive to oppose this debt increase. Go to AgainstTheBond.com and sign the petition to oppose this debt increase. Follow them on Facebook.

Vote no on the bond issue in March.

Restrictive Ballot Access Laws Disenfranchise Voters

North Carolina will continue its tradition of unopposed elections in 2016. Seventy-two General Assembly candidates were either “elected” at the close of filing Dec. 21 or will be elected in the March primary. So in November nearly half of North Carolina voters will no choice about who represents them in Raleigh.

While it’s true gerrymandering is a cause, there’s another more significant reason – highly restrictive ballot access laws. It’s very difficult for a party – other than the Democrats or Republicans – to get on the ballot. It’s nearly impossible for independent candidates to do so.

These high barriers to ballot access thus effectively disenfranchise nearly a third of North Carolina voters, the unaffiliated, the fastest growing voter block.

Most voters don’t realize how the establishment parties manipulate the system through gerrymandering and restrictive ballot access. To qualify for the ballot a “new” party must collect in excess of 90,000 signatures. To run for statewide office without a party label you must hurdle the same barrier. Anyone who wants to challenge an unopposed incumbent in a legislative district or local office, needs to collect anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 signatures from registered voters.

It’s not gerrymandering, voter IDs, or early voting limitations that disenfranchises NC voters. It’s our ballot access lockout.