NC Capitol

NC Capitol

NC Green Party gets state recognition. Will its candidates be on the November ballot?

Posted August 1, 2022 11:53 a.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2022 6:30 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously on Monday to recognize the Green Party as a political party in the state, citing a review from county elections boards showing that the group seeking recognition collected a sufficient number of valid signatures.

Meanwhile, the board said it is also continuing a fraud investigation into signatures collected on the party’s behalf in an effort to get on the November ballot. North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Meredith Cuomo said Monday afternoon that the state party would seek to intervene in state court to address whether the Green Party should be placed on the ballot due to the NCSBE's ongoing investigation.

"Given the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ own investigation finding widespread fraud in the North Carolina Green Party petitions and the ongoing criminal investigation, the NCDP is pursuing legal action to ensure North Carolina voters have not been deceived," Cuomo said in a news release.

Separately, a federal court on Aug. 8 is scheduled to consider the Green Party's request to be on the November ballot.

In the meantime, Monday’s decision from state elections officials makes it possible for North Carolinians to register as voters affiliated with the liberal Green Party and allows previous party registrants to re-register with the Green Party. State elections officials will soon update the state’s voter registration form to include the political party as an option.

Ballot preparation begins in mid-August, which gives the court time to rule in favor or against the inclusion of Green Party candidates. Their inclusion could hurt Democrats’ prospects in highly competitive races, including the U.S. Senate, where voters might crave a more liberal alternative.

“This is a reflection of voters’ will,” said Matthew Hoh, the Green Party’s U.S. Senate candidate. “Voters want more choices. They want more options. They want a multi-party democracy. They’ve been let down by the two-party system continuously and we offer a choice for voters that’s not present.”

Suspicious signatures—collected for the purpose of getting Green Party candidates on state ballots—prompted the State Board of Elections on June 30 to vote against recognizing the Green Party.

The party-line vote prompted outcry from Republicans who had supported the Green Party’s efforts. It also prompted questions about whether the Democratic-led board was fit to evaluate outside political parties for recognition.

“This was never a political decision, but always an important one,” said Damon Circosta, chairman of the State Board of Elections. “I personally did what I said I would do from the start. If there came a time when I believed there were enough valid signatures to recognize the Green Party, I would vote to do so.”

Circosta is also director of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which was started by the founder of Capitol Broadcasting Co., which owns WRAL. Capitol Broadcasting executives sit on the foundation’s board.

The elections board in June requested that counties review the signatures to ensure they are valid. On Monday, the board’s three Democratic members and a Republican member followed the advice of staff to recognize the Green Party.

State elections officials said the Green Party submitted 15,472 signatures validated by county boards and reviewed by the State Board of Elections staff. The figure represented 1,607 valid signatures over the threshold of 13,865 names and 481 fewer valid signatures than what county elections officials had initially signed off on.

Circosta, a Democrat, said that the process could’ve been made easier if the board received more cooperation from petition gatherers. At least one political consultant had dodged investigators, saying in a WRAL News interview last month that the subpoena was an overreach.

“We acknowledge that this effort took time, perhaps more than we would have liked it to, but it was necessary under the circumstances,” Circosta said. “But it should not have been this difficult.”

The North Carolina Green Party declined to comment. They later issued a statement praising the state board's decision. The party's attorney told WRAL News that the status change was long overdue.

"The NCSBE confirmed today what my clients have said all along: there was never any basis to deny certification of the North Carolina Green Party," said Oliver Hall, an attorney for the Green Party. "By certifying the party today, NCSBE did what it should have done two months ago."

Hoh said Monday’s decision cleared his campaign.

“It vindicates what we’ve been saying: that we did not do anything wrong,” Hoh said. “Our process had integrity to it.”

Circosta said the board must review petitions for party recognition “very carefully” going forward to ensure petitions campaign comply with the law. The board has called on lawmakers to ban the practice of allowing petitioners to pay people per signature collected. He said he’ll also request changes to state law to hold those who violate election rules accountable.

“Make no mistake: the criminal investigations into those individuals who perpetrated this fraud on this process will continue,” Circosta said. “If warranted by evidence, we will refer those cases to prosecutors.”

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