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.

Libertarians oppose more restrictions on right to vote

by J.J. Summerell
Chair, Libertarian Party of North Carolina

Republicans claim to be the party of limited government. Now we see what that term really means: when Republicans say limited government, they apparently mean government limited to them and their supporters.

Just when it didn’t seem possible that North Carolina’s election laws could get more restrictive, the Republican majority has come up with a massive bill (HB 589) that would make it even harder for people to vote.

Using the excuse that they are trying to combat voter fraud, the Republicans want to perpetrate an even greater fraud on North Carolina voters under the guise of restoring “confidence in government.”

Republicans claim to be the party of limited government. Now we see what that term really means: when Republicans say limited government, they apparently mean government limited to them and their supporters.

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 »

Veteran legislators ‘retire’

Isn’t it interesting the way so-called veteran legislators always decide to “retire” in the middle of their terms, rather than simply choosing not to run for reelection. Could it be that they do this to give their political party the advantage of appointing their successor who can then run for “reelection” in the next election as the incumbent?

Continue reading »