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.

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