NC Legislature 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.

Let the People Choose Who Represents Them

Once again, North Carolina’s elections are under a cloud. A U.S. District Court panel just ruled two Congressional districts unconstitutional.

The people of North Carolina deserve a process where they choose their representatives, not the other way around. When it reconvenes in April, the state House should immediately consider and bring to a vote House Bill 92 to establish a nonpartisan redistricting process.

Under this bill, the redistricting plan would be drawn up by a legislative office and submitted to the legislature for an up or down vote. It is based on the system used in Iowa successfully for years.

For decades, North Carolina has had the most litigated redistricting process in the nation. Both Democrats and Republicans put partisan politics ahead of the interests of the people. As a result, elections were delayed and representation denied.

When the Democrats controlled the process, the Republicans cried foul and challenged the plans in court. Now that Republicans are in power, they act no better. Whichever party is on top invariably acts in the same, self-serving way.

Even though only two Congressional districts were ruled unconstitutional, redrawing the lines will have a ripple effect in adjoining districts. The problem goes far beyond using race to draw lines. The process is fundamentally flawed. The people of North Carolina need and deserve better.

The state Libertarian Party supports an independent, nonpartisan, open, and transparent redistricting process. Party registration, voting history data, and the incumbent’s place of residence shouldn’t be considered when drawing district lines.

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.

Keeping North Carolina a one-party state

“There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters”― Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster could have been talking about the Republican majority in the 2015 N.C. General Assembly. Not only do they mean to govern, they also mean to insure that only they can govern. Having the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation isn’t enough. Nor is gerrymandering electoral districts to guarantee Republican victories.

The Republicans want to make GOP stand for Grand Only Party. They’re perfectly content with keeping North Carolina a one-party state, as it was for many years under the Democrats. They just want it to be their party. Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev would be proud.

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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.

New voters continue to shun major parties

The number of voters registering in a major party continues to decline in North Carolina, even as the total number of registered voters in continues to rise. As of Nov. 2, there were 6,475,017 registered voters: 2,764,123 registered Democrats, 1,990,192 registered Republicans, 22,173 registered Libertarians, and 1,698,529 registered unaffiliated.

The decline in the percentage of voters registered as Republicans or Democrats reached a new record low of 42.69 percent. The number of unaffiliated voters is now at 26.23 percent and the Libertarian portion is at 0.34 percent.

The number of registered Libertarians, 22,173, while still proportionally small, is an historic high for the party.

The Democratic share of registered votes is now at a new record low of 42.69 percent, and the Republican portion is down to a low of 30.74 percent.

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Free Voter Freedom Act from Senate rules committee

From Free the Vote North Carolina

The legislative session is coming to a close, but HB 794  Voter Freedom Act is stuck in the Senate Rules Committee.  This bill was sponsored by the Free the Vote Coalition, an alliance of groups spanning the political spectrum that includes the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.

The original bill would have dramatically lowered our state’s high ballot access barriers. We agreed with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Saine, when he urged us to support transforming the bill into a study bill in order to get it passed. And it did pass the House with an overwhelming 109-5 vote.

That was a month ago. Since then, both houses have been busy working on various budget and tax reform bills. The bill has been left dormant in the Senate Rules Committee.

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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.

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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.”

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