RALEIGH, NC (AP) — The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Monday unanimously voted to recognize the Green Party as a new political party, reversing its previous decision to dismiss the party’s petition, while The board examines the signature sheet for fraud.
The board’s legal counsel Kelly Love announced Monday that the North Carolina Green Party has submitted more than enough signatures validated by both state and county election boards to receive immediate recognition. But the Green Party’s candidates still face a legal battle to appear in November’s ballot, as the party has a July 1 deadline to submit its candidates after the state board initially rejected the petition. Had to miss the deadline.
Although the Board of Elections determined it did not have the authority to extend the deadline, an August 8 federal court hearing in Raleigh could widen the window for a new political party to nominate candidates in North Carolina.
“It was never a political decision, but always an important decision,” board chairman Damon Cercosta, a Democrat, said Monday. “I personally did what I said I would do from the beginning. If there comes a time when I feel there are enough valid signatures to be recognized by the Green Party, I will vote to do so.
The Democratic majority of the election board had previously rejected the Green Party’s petition in a 3-2 vote on June 30, citing almost identical handwriting, incomplete personal information, duplicate names and petition sheets with deceased signatories.
The Green Party sued the board on July 14, alleging Democratic interference in the petition process and asking the court to reverse the board’s decision. Opposing the Green Party’s demand, the board filed a response to the lawsuit on Friday that a judge order the board to include its candidates on the ballot.
The board agreed that the court should extend the candidate filing deadline should the party receive official recognition at Monday’s board meeting, the brief states.
Democrats have warned that Green Party certification could divide progressive voters and clear a path for Republican victories in major races — notably Democrat Cheri Beasley and Trump-backed Republican Rep. Ted Budd’s tight race for the US Senate. Prior to the board’s initial vote, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee acknowledged contacting the signatories of the Green Party’s petition to request that they remove their names.
Preparation for the ballot begins in mid-August, which Love said should give Green Party candidates enough time to appear on the North Carolina ballot, along with Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, if the court rules in their favor.
Cercosta said the board also plans to recommend legislative changes aimed at ensuring that fraudsters in the signature collection process are easily identified and brought to justice.
Schoenbaum is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues. Follow him at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.