Another political party in North Carolina OK’d for fall; 2 others remain in limbo

North Carolina’s elections board certified unanimously on Tuesday a right-leaning political party to field candidates this fall in the state, but again deferred final action for two organizations that collected signatures to help get Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West on the presidential ballot.

The Constitution Party of North Carolina will join several other parties already officially recognized by the state. Board staff determined the party collected enough valid signatures from registered and qualified voters to exceed a threshold set in state law. The Constitution Party had been an official party in 2020, but it failed to perform well enough in that election to remain one.

Two weeks ago, the State Board of Elections voted 3-2 against a motion giving the Constitution Party formal recognition, citing concern about the mailing address for the group’s chairman on signature collection documents. The board’s Democratic majority made up the prevailing side. But board Chair Alan Hirsch said before Tuesday’s 5-0 vote that the issue was very technical in nature. “I am of the view that on reflection that we shouldn’t stand in the way for any potential technical errors,” Hirsch said.

The Democratic majority last month also declined to approve official recognition of the We The People party and Justice for All Party of North Carolina, although board officials confirmed that both petition efforts had turned in more valid signatures than the 13,865 required. That threshold is much larger than what Kennedy, an author and environmental lawyer, and West, a professor and progressive activist, would have needed if they sought to run statewide as independent candidates.

The board’s Democrats said they wanted more information about what petition gatherers for the We The People, backing Kennedy, and Justice for All, aligned with West, told voters about the nascent parties. State law requires that they must communicate the “purpose and intent” of the new parties to petition signers. They also wanted board staff to attempt to contact signers who later filled out affidavits asking that their names be removed.

Hirsch, a Democrat, said Tuesday more time was needed for staff to take in more details. Responses to several subpoenas issued by the board had not been returned by Tuesday’s meeting, board attorney Paul Cox said.

Hirsch offered no date for the next meeting but said that “we will do that promptly in plenty of time to get these folks on the ballot, should they be approved as parties.”

North Carolina political parties have until mid-August to submit their presidential ticket candidate names to the board in time for ballots to be prepared. The national Constitution Party this year nominated anti-abortion activist Randall Terry as its presidential candidate.

Adding presidential candidates raises the stakes about who will win North Carolina’s 16 electoral votes. Republican Donald Trump won the state in both 2016 and in 2020, but his margin over Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 was less than 1.4 percentage points.

Republican board members expressed frustration Tuesday with another delay, saying the board should stop second-guessing voters who signed the petitions and what signature collectors expressed about their party’s purpose and give official recognition. The state Democratic Party and Clear Choice Action, a group affiliated with a super PAC aligned with Biden’s allies, wrote the board last month asking that the petitions be rejected.

“I’m just completely at a loss of what’s going on here,” GOP board member Kevin Lewis told Hirsch, adding that the deferrals are “bringing a lot of bad publicity on the board. Your motives are starting to be questioned.”

Hirsch declined to respond directly to Lewis’ allegations of partisanship. He said later: “We’re gonna take the evidence where it leads us.”

Republican politicians, including Trump’s campaign, have also blasted the board’s delay as politically motivated. “Democratic partisans on the State Board of Elections have ignored clear state law and refused to certify third parties that pose a threat to Joe Biden in November,” state House Speaker Tim Moore said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Not including North Carolina, Kennedy’s campaign has said he is officially on the ballot in 10 states and has submitted signatures in 11 more states. The West campaign said it has secured ballot access in eight states, but acknowledged some certifications must still be finalized.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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