NC Legislatures 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.

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.

Free the Vote endorses state House candidates

Free the Vote North Carolina has endorsed three candidates for the N.C. State House. They are: Cliff Moore, District 96; Trey Lowe, District 106, and; Norman Bossert, District 113.

Free_Vote“We endorsed these candidates because they show fervent support for the individual’s right to vote and to vote effectively,” said Jordon Greene, Free the Voter founder and president.

“They understand the importance of free and open elections so that the people may have the true ability to choose who represents them and obtain the self-government the founders of this great nation and of our state intended them to have.”

Greene noted that North Carolina now has the nation’s most restrictive ballot access law, requiring the highest number of signatures for a new party or independent candidate to get on the statewide ballot.

“All too often politicians try to limit the ability of competitors to enter the race, and, over time have put strict barriers in place that effectively restrict the free speech and freedom of association in our state’s election process, thereby reducing voter freedom.” Greene said.

“These candidates don’t subscribe to that philosophy,” he said. “We look forward to working with them, and other like-minded individuals in the General Assembly, to reduce the barriers to political participation and re-introduce free, equal and legitimate elections in North Carolina.”

Free the Vote North Carolina sends out candidate surveys each election cycle after the primary and posts the results given by those candidates who respond.

Free The Voter Freedom Act

Free Voter Freedom Act

Free the Vote NC has issued a call to action to free HB 794, the Voter Freedom Act of 2013, from the state Senate Rules Committee. They are urging voters to call Rules Committee Chair Sen. Tom Apodaca, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Phil Berger, and the local state Senator on June 10.

“If we don’t act soon, the bill will die and we’ll have to start all over again in January 2015 to reform North Carolina’s highly restrictive ballot access laws,” said Jordon Green, Free the Vote president.

In order to keep HB 794 during the last legislative session, Free the Vote agreed to have the bill converted into a study bill. That effort was successful. The bill passed the House with a overwhelming 109-5 bipartisan vote.

But once it got to the state Senate, it was sent to the rules committee where it has languished ever since.

While the original bill would have dramatically lowered our state’s high ballot access barriers, the study bill, if passed, would task the Joint Elections Oversight Committee to look into all the restrictions on ballot access which we addressed in the original bill.

Continue reading »

Vote Freedom Act of 2013 filed in N.C. House

Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincolnton) introduced House Bill 794 Voter Freedom Act of 2013 today to dramatically lower the ballot access barrier for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates.

House Bill 794 has bipartisan sponsors, Representatives Paul Luebke (D-Durham), David Lewis (R-Dunn), and Rodney Moore (D-Mecklenberg). A broad and diverse coalition of political parties and public policy groups from across the political spectrum also backs the bill.

The Voter Freedom Act of 2013 would reduce the number of signatures a new political party must collect to qualify for the ballot from nearly 90,000 to about 11,000. The bill would also make it easier for new parties to retain ballot access, by reducing the number of votes they must get to about 11,000 votes.

Continue reading »

Free the Vote NC calls for an end to straight-party voting

Eliminating straight-party voting will be a step toward ending the two-party duopoly that controls North Carolina’s electoral process and discriminates against alternative parties and independent candidates, a spokesman for Free the Vote North Carolina said in a statement today.

“The straight-party voting system tends to perpetuate this cycle of individuals going to the polls and casting votes based simply on party label in the hopes of voting for someone that shares their common values,” said Jordon Greene, founder and president of Free the Vote NC.

Two bills ending straight-party voting have been introduced in the General Assembly. Free the Votes opposes one, HB185 and supports the other, SB82.

“Straight-party voting encourages uneducated voting and demeans the value of the individual’s vote,” Greene said. “The manner in which the device is used in North Carolina also is confusing to voters, since it doesn’t apply to the presidential race.”

Continue reading »

N.C. Libertarians set another record

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.”

Continue reading »

Election law bills filed in the General Assembly

In the first two days of the N.C. General Assembly, four election law bills were introduced. A controversial voter ID bill was not among, even though House Speaker Thom Tillis listed it as part of the Republican Party’s agenda. The GOP is expected to use its veto-proof majority in both house to push the bill rapidly through the legislature.

Free the Vote NC, a ballot access reform group, is expected to have a bill ready in the next few weeks which would dramatically lower the barriers for third parties and independent candidates to get on the ballot. It will be similar to a bill which passed the House last session, but failed in the Senate.

Continue reading »