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NC Elections Board certifies Green Party, over Democratic Party objections

Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh is trying to get a place on the November ballot in the U.S. Senate race.
Matthew Hoh campaign
Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh is trying to get a place on the Nov. ballot in the U.S. Senate race.

The North Carolina Board of Elections voted Monday to certify the Green Party as a political party in the state — a decision that could allow Green U.S. Senate candidate Matthew Hoh to be on the November ballot in one of the nation’s most competitive races.

If a federal judge rules next week that Hoh can be on the ballot, it could pull votes from the Democratic candidate, former state Supreme Court justice Cheri Beasley, who is in a close race against Republican Congressman Ted Budd.

In the past, some Democrats have blamed Green Party presidential candidates for siphoning votes from Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, causing them to lose the presidency.

The North Carolina race could determine which party controls the Senate.

National Democrats have questioned the validity of the Green Party’s signatures on a petition drive needed to get a spot on the ballot.

The Elias Law Group, which represents the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, supported the efforts of a former state Democratic party operative who challenged the Green Party petition. And on Friday, Elias Law Group attorney Jacquelyn Lopez wrote the Board of Elections and urged it not to recognize the Greens.

She said there was “widespread fraud” with the Green Party petition and that the state shouldn’t give the party the “benefit of the doubt.”

The board of elections on June 30 voted 3-2 against certifying the Greens. The vote was along party lines, with the board’s three Democrats voting against certification and the two Republicans voting yes.

The board’s executive director, Karen Brinson Bell, who was appointed by the state’s Democratic governor, said she was concerned that the Green Party’s signatures were fraudulent. She said the state needed more time to investigate — even though that would mean the Greens would miss a July 1 deadline to declare their candidates for the fall.

The party-line vote led the Green Party to cry foul, saying Democrats were working to protect Beasley.

The Board of Elections said Monday that local county elections boards had reviewed more signatures and that its own staff had also investigated. The board said it found an additional 481 signatures that were likely not valid, either because the signatures didn’t match or because they were submitted after the deadline.

But the state said the Green Party still had more than 1,600 valid signatures above the minimum requirement of 13,865.

The board then voted 4-0 to recognize the Green Party. Republican board member Tommy Tucker wasn’t able to attend.

But the state’s extended investigation caused the Greens to miss that July 1 deadline. A federal judge will decide on Aug. 8 whether the state can let the Green Party be on the ballot.

The Board of Elections said Monday that it can logistically place the Greens on the ballot.

Board of Elections chair Damon Circosta, a Democrat, said the board “spent a lot of time to get it right. It was never a political decision.”

Hoh, the Green Party Senate candidate, said he expects Democrats to challenge whether he can compete in November.

“We expect that will continue,” he said. “We will have to fight against frivolous allegations without any substance for the remainder of this campaign, That’s their campaign. That’s what they do.”

The N.C. Democratic Party said Monday afternoon it would file a lawsuit in Wake Court Superior Court to keep the Green Party off the ballot.

There is also a Libertarian in the race, Shannon Bray.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.