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.”

Johnson join a growing list of organizations from across the political spectrum that have expressed support for the bill or joined the Free the Vote Coalition organized to work for its passage. According to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, a nationally-recognized ballot access expert, this is the first time a chair or vice chair of a major political party has endorsed a ballot reform measure.

The Free the Vote Coalition, a project of Free the Vote North Carolina, is an alliance of alternate political parties and election law reform groups working to pass HB 32. Members now include the Conservative, Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Modern Whig, and Reform parties, Ballot Access News, the N.C. Campaign for Liberty, the N.C. Center for Voter Education, N.C. Common Cause, Democracy NC, FairVote, the Free and Equal Foundation, the John Locke Foundation, and the Republican Liberty Caucus of N.C.

In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union of N.C., the State Bar Association, and the N.C. League of Women Voters have expressed support for the bill.

Representatives Stephen A. LaRoque (R-Lenoir) Glen Bradley (R-Franklin), Paul Luebke (D-Durham) and Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) are the bill’s primary sponsors. The bill is currently in the House Elections Committee.