North Carolina elections board OKs Constitution Party, kicks can on Robert Kennedy and Cornel West groups

Candidates for the Constitution Party will appear on North Carolina’s November ballot following certification of the group by the State Board of Elections (SBE) on Tuesday while both the We the People and Justice for All parties will have to wait a while longer to find out if the state will recognize them as official political organizations.

The decision effectively keeps Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the We the People nominee for President, and Cornel West, who is running for President under the Justice for All banner, from the ballot until another meeting of the SBE is set by Chairman Alan Hirsch, a Democrat. 

With at least 165 people watching its virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon, the five-member SBE unanimously certified the Constitution Party, which now has two weeks to present its slate of candidates for state and federal office. 

The Board met on June 26 to consider all three parties but voted down their petitions for candidates to appear on the November ballot. All three had gathered enough signatures to pass the statutory threshold to have candidates appear on the ballot. 

There was little discussion of certifying the Constitution Party, other than having sailed past the July 1 deadline for presenting a list of candidates to the Board so it could begin printing ballots in August. After some back-and-forth, the Board voted to give the party two weeks to present its slate. 

The Constitution Party’s website says its nominating convention is in recess “due to incompetent State Board of Elections delay in certifying The Constitution Party of NC,” which lists “sanctity of life” and “religious freedom” atop its “Seven Essential Core Values” that also include support for the Second Amendment, private property rights, national sovereignty and anti-socialism. It has an online portal open for prospective candidates to seek nomination.

Discussion turned more heated when the We the People and Justice for All parties came up on the agenda. Consideration of those two parties was limited to discussion as SBE staff track down and interview people who signed their petitions. 

Republican Kevin Lewis of Rocky Mount said he was “disappointed” the Board was “dragging its feet” on certifying the We the People and Justice for All parties. 

“We need to support democracy and have access to the ballot,” he said. 

Board staff attempted to contact 26 people who signed the petition for We the People and 66 who signed in favor of Justice for All but were successful in interviewing less than half of them. Most of those interviewed either did not recall signing the petitions or did not understand the intent of the document they were singing, according to SBE staff. 

Lewis and fellow Republican Board member Stacy Eggers of Boone, lamented that the Board was second guessing voters’ intent in signing the petitions and for bringing bad publicity on their heads. 

In the end, Hirsch decided to kick the can. The Board will continue to research signatories to the petition and set a meeting “promptly” to formally consider whether to certify the parties, he said. 

Third-party candidates are often seen as spoilers for Democrats, who Republicans say are objecting to the certification of the three new parties in an effort to buoy their candidates’ chances in November. 

North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Jason Simmons sent a letter on Tuesday to the SBE concerning what he called its “hyper partisan actions in the certification process for three new political parties.”

“This board is yet again engaging in blatant partisanship, this time clearly aimed at preserving the political prospects of Democrats, specifically President Joe Biden in this state’s General Election,” Simmons wrote. “This board has not acted in a fair or transparent manner and to the contrary, is suffocating the rights and wishes of our state’s voters.”

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