The North Carolina Libertarian Party has achieved another historic milestone in state politics. It now has the highest share of registered voters than any other third party in modern history, according to an analysis by Richard Winger of Ballot Access News.
Although the actual number, 0.31 percent, is very low, the Libertarians have steadily increased their portion of voter registrants despite having to overcome North Carolina’s draconian ballot access laws every four years.
“Although our numbers are still small, the fact that more and more people are registering either as unaffiliated voters or Libertarians makes these numbers significant,” said state party chair J.J. Summerell. “It’s evidence that more and more people think the Republican and Democrats have failed to effectively manage our government.”
The previous record for third party registration was held by the American Party. They had 0.30 percent of voters in October 1972. That party was on the ballot in 1968, lost ballot status in the 1972 election, and regained it for the 1976 election.
The Libertarian Party of North Carolina first appeared on the ballot in 1978. Since then, the party has had a candidate The Libertarian have maintained ballot status continuously since 1996.
In 2008, the LINC achieved another historic milestone for a third party when it qualified to keep its ballot status by polling more than two percent of the vote for its gubernatorial candidate. They repeated this achievement in 2012.
The party had lost ballot status October 2004 when it failed to meet what was then a 10 percent threshold of votes for president or governor in the 2000 election. At that time, 0.23 percent of voters were registered as Libertarians. The party regained ballot status by petition in 2008, and registration has increased ever since.
Democratic and Republican party registrations have been in decline for several years, while the number of voters registering unaffiliated or Libertarian has increased.
In October 2012, the percentages were: Democratic 43.17 percent; Republican 30.86 percent; Libertarian 0.29 percent; unaffiliated 25.67 percent. The current percentages are: Democratic 43.12 percent; Republican 30.82 percent; Libertarian 0.31 percent; unaffiliated 25.75 percent.
If this trend continues, some ballot observers believe the unaffiliated voters will become the second major political group in the state. Unaffiliated voters already are the second largest political group in some counties.
To qualify for the ballot in North Carolina, a so-called new political party must submit a petition with signatures equal to two percent of the number of voters in the most recent gubernatorial contest. The number is currently more than 89,000 signatures. In reality, a new party would have to collect 100,000 to 125,000 signatures to allow for signatures ruled invalid.
This is the highest requirement for political parties in the nation. More than two-thirds of states only require 10,000 or less signatures for a party to be listed on the ballot.
Then, in order to keep their ballot status, the new party must then get two percent of the vote for governor.
Critics note that, since the Democratic and Republican parties control the board of elections and the election process, these rules do not apply to them.
“North Carolina has abused its responsibility to administer the political process in an impartial manner,” said Jordon Greene, president of the ballot access reform group Free the Vote North Carolina.
“Instead of properly utilizing these laws to protect the voting public against fraud and coercion, they have committed fraud and coercion on the people of this state by abusing the power to regulate access to the North Carolina election ballot.”