NC Democrats are not done trying to keep the Green Party off the 2022 ballot
The Democratic Party establishment has not given up the fight to keep the Green Party off North Carolina's 2022 ballot. In an emergency motion filed today with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the North Carolina Democratic Party and lawyers from the powerful, Washington-based Elias Law Group argued that a lower court ruling letting the Greens on the ballot would undermine the state's orderly political process.
The Green Party has been trying to gain access to this year's ballot through the petition process, which meant submitting at least 13,865 valid signatures, validated by elections officials at the county and state levels, from registered North Carolina voters. Initially, at a June 30 meeting, the Democratic majority on the bipartisan, five-member State Board of Elections, voted 3-2 to deny certification pending further investigation into allegations of fraud in the Green Party's petition campaign.
Then, at an Aug. 1 meeting, board staff presented preliminary findings of the investigation. The probe turned up several hundred fraudulent signatures, tied to outside contractors hired by the Green Party to collect signatures, and sworn affidavits from some voters who stated they had not actually signed the petitions and others who claimed they had been misled about what they were signing.
Still, at that same meeting, the state elections board's general counsel said that the Green Party had exceeded its target number of valid signatures by more than 1,600, and the board voted unanimously to certify the Green Party for this year.
Greens candidate calls party certification a 'win for democracy'
Certification meant that North Carolina voters wishing to affiliate with the Greens could begin doing so through the registration process, and it meant that N.C. Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh could get into the race to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.
"This was a win for democracy and this was a win for North Carolina voters because now North Carolina voters can vote for someone who is in favor of universal health care, affordable housing, jobs, an end to the war on drugs, et cetera," Hoh declared Monday at a news conference in front of the Terry Sanford Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, in Raleigh.
Hoh and other Green Party officials and supporters turned out to hail U.S. District Court Judge James Dever III's order from last week instructing the state elections board to add Green Party candidates to the 2022 ballot even though the statutory July 1 deadline for doing so had passed.
Democrats had sought to block Green Party access to the ballot through a state court but Judge Dever's order from last Friday rendered that state case moot.
But Democrats argued in their 4th Circuit emergency motion that adding the Greens to the ballot at this late juncture would cause them irreparable harm "by forcing them to compete with a party that did not comply with the statutory deadline for naming candidates" requiring the Democratic Party to "expend party resources they would otherwise use for other purposes."
High stakes, slim margins in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race
North Carolina's U.S. Senate race promises to be an expensive, nationally-watched contest. The race's headline candidates are Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice who could become North Carolina's first Black U.S. senator, and Republican Congressman Ted Budd, a hard-right gun shop owner and endorsee of Donald Trump. Libertarian Shannon Bray is also on the ballot.
The stakes in this race are high and the finish between Beasley and Budd promises to be tight, according to Prof. Chris Cooper, a political scientist and director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University. According to conventional wisdom, Cooper said, Green Party candidates tend to draw votes away from Democrats and that could make a difference come November.
"The polling has been pretty consistent here," Cooper said. "This is not a race that either candidate is going to run away with, this is a race that will be decided at the margins."
Indeed, Oliver Hall, an attorney with the nonprofit Center for Competitive Democracy and counsel for the North Carolina Green Party, says the Democratic Party's efforts to block the Greens' ballot access are about hardball politics, not election integrity.
"The Democrats' last-ditch appeal has no basis in fact or law, which is why the State Board of Elections certified the Green Party for the ballot after conducting an exhaustive investigation, and why Judge Dever issued his soundly reasoned order," Hall said in an emailed response to WUNC.
"The Democrats have only one interest," Hall said, "to suppress voter choice by interfering with my clients' First Amendment rights and those of all North Carolina voters who want and deserve meaningful choices in competitive elections."
Unless the Fourth Circuit intervenes, the State Board of Elections will be adding the Greens to the 2022 ballot per Judge Dever's order.