A U.S. District Court has upheld the North Carolina election law setting the signature requirements for an independent candidate to get on the ballot for the U.S. House. Judge Graham C. Mullen denied a request for summary judgment by Bryan Greene, who sought to have the statute ruled unconstitutional.
Greene argued that requiring an independent candidate to collect signatures from four percent of the registered voters in the district is unduly restrictive and discriminates against independent candidates because the number of signatures need varies from district to district.
While Mullen observed that North Carolina’s election laws place severe restrictions upon unaffiliated candidates and that they do not regularly qualify for the ballot, he said, “It is well settled law that the State has a legitimate interest in limiting access to the ballot in order to prevent ballot clutter and voter confusion, as well as discourage frivolous candidates.”
Mullen ruled that the statue does not violate the right to equal protection of the law, as Green argued, nor did he agree with the plaintiff’s argument that there is no rational basis for the rule.
>While on the high-end of the petitioning spectrum, North Carolina’s four percent requirement passes strict scrutiny because it is the only aspect of North Carolina’s election requirements that present a barrier of any significance to an unaffiliated candidate,” Mullen said.
Greene said that the judge did not address the central issue behind the lawsuit, which was filed to protect rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The real purpose of this lawsuit was the right of each individual to be represented and to be able vote according to his conscience,” he said. He said that people should able to vote for people they choose, and not be limited to a group that North Carolina says meets the state’s qualifications. Greene said that it seemed like the judge forgot about the Constitution in making his decision.
The contention that a less restrictive ballot access laws would result in the ballot being flooded with candidates has no merit, Greene said.
We don’t want to flood the ballot box, and it’s never happened, so why are they (the state) worried about it,” he said. “There’s no weight to that argument, there’s no evidence of that anywhere, in any state.”
The judge said that the General Assembly has “deemed it prudent that North Carolina require a greater showing of support for unaffiliated candidates than its sisters states.” He said he was not convinced that the four percent requirement is not “narrowly defined.”
Jordon Greene, Bryan Greene’s son and campaign manager, called this a ludicrous statement. “There are 318 U.S. House districts where the signature requirement is below 5,000 and 62 districts where it ranges between 5,000 and 9,999,” he said. “There are only 55 districts– including all those in North Carolina – where an independent candidate needs more than 10,00 signatures to get on the ballot.”
In his ruling, Mullen dismissed the plaintiff’s assertion that no independent candidate has every qualified for a U.S. House race since 1901. He cited the case of Wendell Fant, who the judge said has submitted sufficient signatures to run as an independent in the 8th Congressional District.
The judge ignored the rest of the story,” the younger Greene said. “First of all, Mr. Fant did not submit the signatures himself. They were submitted by the state employees union. Second, Mr. Fant is not running.”
Nor does Judge Mullen take note that the signatures were collected by paid petitioners, and that the petition drive was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside the state, from outside of the typical man’s reach,” Jordon Greene said. The drive was funded by the Service Employees International Union, parent organization of the State Employees Association of North Carolina.
The judge’s comments had nothing to do with the real issues in the case because the Fant petition drive was actually part of an internal Democratic Party struggle, Jordon Greene said.
It’s clear that the entire effort was undertaken to punish the incumbent Democrat for failing to support President Obama’s political agenda, not as a serious effort to run an independent candidacy,” Jordon Greene said. “The organizers admitted this.” The unions first attempted to form a new political party to challenge the errant Democrats, he said, and when that effort failed they tried to qualify an independent candidate.
>The court seems to be saying that just because a well-funded union can get the signatures it means the law is alright,” he said, “totally dismissing the burden it places on the average Joe who wants to run for office but doesn’t have deep pockets and isn’t bought and paid for by the ruling class, lobbyists or corporate interests.”
Bryan Greene said he has not yet decided whether or not to appeal the decision.
Earlier story: Hearing set for independent candidate ballot access case