A U.S. District Court judge will hear oral arguments July 28 in a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s petition signature requirements for independent candidates for U.S. Congress. The lawsuit was filed by Bryan Greene in 2008. U.S. District Court Judge Graham C. Mullen will hear the case at 10:30 a.m. in the federal courthouse in Charlotte.
State law requires an independent candidate to collect valid signatures from four percent of the registered voters in the district. Since 1901 no independent candidate for U.S. House has ever met that hurdle, that is, until this year.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina collected enough signatures to qualify Wendell Fant for the ballot in Congressional District 8. But Fant, a former aide to the Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell, declined to run.
That effort was successful due to massive funding and hundreds of petitioners provided by the state employees union and its parent group, the Service Employees International Union. It was part of a larger move to punish Democratic congressmen who did not support President Obama’s health care bill.
The Greene lawsuit is one of three challenges to North Carolina’s election laws before the state courts this year. In 2005, the Libertarian Party, later joined by the Green Party, filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of all the state’s ballot access laws. The case focuses on a political party’s access to the election ballot and is on appeal to the State Supreme Court. The case could be on the court’s docket in September.
A third case involves Mark Brody, an unaffiliated candidate for the N.C. House of Representatives District 103. Brody’s case was heard in May 2010. He argued that an independent candidate who polled a substantial share of the vote in the one election should not have to petition again to get on the ballot for the next election.
Brody polled slightly over 30 percent in the November 2008 vote, so he contended he should not have to petition again for the 2010 election. The judge ruled against him. Brody has yet to appeal the ruling.