Raleigh, N.C. — Legislation to ease ballot access for third party candidates and to make runoffs less common in crowded primary races cleared committee in the House Wednesday morning.
Senate Bill 656 has already passed the state Senate on a unanimous vote. It's got a little tougher road in the House but has key support there and cleared the House Elections and Ethics Law Committee on a 15-8 vote.
The bill would lower the plurality threshold in state primaries from 40 percent to 30 percent, meaning the top vote-getters in those races would avoid a runoff if they get more than 30 percent of the vote.
Committee Chairman Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said the change would cut down on election costs and that it's rare for a second-place candidate to pull ahead in a runoff.
The bill would also significantly lower the number of signatures needed for third parties to be certified in North Carolina and for unaffiliated statewide candidates to make the ballot.
Parties would need 10,000 signatures from eligible voters. Current law requires 2 percent of turnout in the most recent gubernatorial election, or about 93,000 signatures, sponsors said.
An unaffiliated candidate would need 5,000 signatures to make the ballot, again instead of the current 2 percent requirement.
The bill now heads to the House floor.