What happens when you mix green, blue and red? | Eastern North Carolina Now

Tom Campbell

    It's been said North Carolina is politically a purple state, a mixture of red (Republican) and blue (Democrat). Now we might have to add green to the mix, since the Green Party has petitioned to gain statewide ballot access in this November's general elections. The feud that's erupted over it could alter this year's election results but even more importantly, the outcomes in 2024. Let's try to sort it out as best we can.

    We don't know much about The Green Party or who is involved with it, but it boasts principles of "green" politics, such as social justice, environmentalism and nonviolence. They want to field a slate of candidates to run statewide in this November's elections and, to comply with North Carolina law, the new party must present at least 13,865 signed petitions from registered voters to get that approval.

    In order to obtain such a large number, the Green Party hired several contractors to conduct petition campaigns throughout the state and submitted some 22,000 signed petitions to the State Board of Elections.

    Democrats and their supporters, including the Elias Group, a law firm known for advocating for Democrats, complained to the State Board of Elections, proclaiming that some of the submitted signatures were "intentionally doctored" and that the Green Party should be denied status as a new party on the basis it didn't qualify.

    By a 3-2 vote, strictly along party lines, the State Board of Elections denied the Green Party's request. The three deniers were Democrats and the two in favor were Republican members.

    Spokesmen for the Green group immediately accused the State Board of blatantly attempting to prevent a new party, thus increasing chances the Democrats could prevail. They are suing the board for a reversal of the decision, saying that the board violated their First Amendment and Due Process Rights. They acknowledge that some of the signatures might not be valid but, since they collected more than 22,000 signatures and that more than 16,000 had been validated by county boards, they had plenty enough to surpass the 13,865-hurdle needed.

    After some questions were raised, the state board discovered that not all county boards had properly checked signatures and directed all 100 county boards to validate the signatures and report back to them by July 29th. But that is too little, too late for the Green Party.

    Even if it is demonstrated that there are sufficient numbers of valid signatures and the state board reverses its decision, the reversal won't help for this year. The deadline for candidates filing to run in November's elections was July 1 and to change that deadline would require either a court order or a vote by the legislature.

    Republicans, not willing to sit on the sideline, have joined the Green cause, saying that Democrats and their operatives are contacting signees and asking them to revoke their signatures from petitions, further telling signees that a third party will significantly disadvantage Democrats' chances of winning elections. This could get messy!

    Some are accusing the state board of partisanship, saying they knew that setting the July 29th date for counties to report back would keep the Green Party off the ballot in November. We also find it interesting Republicans are siding with the Green Party. Won't a third party also splinter off some of their votes? And what was the real reason behind the Green Party petitioning this year?

    The big prize, unspoken but understood, is November's election for the US Senate. Democrats believe they stand a good chance of flipping the seat, but a split vote may result in the election of another Republican.

    As a point of clarification let us cite North Carolina law for accepting a new statewide political party. "Any group of voters which shall have filed with the State Board of Elections petitions for the formulation of a new political party which are signed by registered and qualified voters in this State equal in number to one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent general election for Governor. Also, the petition must be signed by at least 200 registered voters from each of three congressional districts in North Carolina." The State Board of Elections reports there were 5,545,848 votes cast for Governor in 2020. Doing the math confirms that 13,865 signatures are required for the approval of a third party this year.

    Polls have repeatedly shown that North Carolina voters would welcome a third political party. Of the 7,325,245 registered voters in our state 34.03 percent are registered Democrats, 30.17 are Republican, but the largest percentage (35.12) are registered Unaffiliated. Voters are increasingly preferring not to belong to either party.

    Here's my spin: I don't have a pony in this current race, but I do know that North Carolina's ballot access laws are archaic, too difficult for candidates to gain access on the ballot and have needed changing for years. They haven't been because the two political parties don't want additional competition and have stymied efforts to loosen requirements. Voters need more options, not fewer.

    Sadly, whatever action the State Board of Elections takes is going to further divide us and create distrust in our election process. We will await the State Board's decision and trust they will make a decision free from partisan political influence. Then let's hope they will clearly explain it to voters and champion law changes.

      Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 1/2 years. Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.
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