Facing an imminent deadline to submit enough signatures from registered voters, two of North Carolina’s newer political parties are on the brink of losing their voters’ affiliation.
The Green Party and Constitution Party have until June 12 to file signatures from at least 0.25% of all registered N.C. voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election. Both parties are far behind the required 13,865 signatures. The Green Party has submitted zero signatures, and the Constitution Party has submitted 3,528 signatures, of which 2,834 were valid, according to the NC State Board of Elections.
The two parties lost certification as recognized political parties in the state in January, after they each failed to receive at least 2% of the entire state’s vote for governor or president in the 2020 general election.
When a party is decertified, its registered voters are re-registered by the Board of Elections as unaffiliated voters. The board was originally set to take up the matter during its February meeting, but granted the parties a temporary reprieve, adopting a motion to change the status of their voters on the 20th day before the start of the filing period for the “next regularly scheduled election.”
As of May 29, the Green Party has 4,040 registered voters and the Constitution Party has 5,530 registered voters, according to the Board of Elections. (There are 2,481,794 registered Democrats, 2,159,499 registered Republicans, 45,776 registered Libertarians, and 2,374,962 unaffiliated voters.)
If the parties don’t file the required number of signatures by June 12, all of those voters would have their registration changed to unaffiliated, and would have to re-register with either party if they were to be recognized at a later date, said Pat Gannon, a spokesperson for the Board of Elections.
Voters affiliated with either the Green or Constitution parties would be mailed notice of the change in their affiliation status, Gannon said. The notice would also allow them to affiliate with another political party or remain unaffiliated.
The Green Party is an independent, left-wing political party aligned with the global Green movement, with which it says it shares four key pillars: peace and nonviolence; ecological wisdom; grassroots democracy; and social justice.
Michael Trudeau, the secretary of the Green Party, said in an interview that the Green Party has collected roughly 2,500 signatures but does not plan to submit any to the Board of Elections ahead of the June 12 deadline.
Instead, the party will hold onto the signatures, which don’t expire until May 31, 2022, and will continue collecting signatures to file next year to gain access to the ballot for the 2022 general election. According to North Carolina law, the deadline for submitting petitions at a later date is June 1 of the year the party wishes to appear on the ballot.
Trudeau said the party’s biggest obstacle in collecting enough signatures was COVID-19, which limited the staff’s movement and made it more difficult to knock on doors and request signatures at a time when most people were wary of contracting the virus.
“How can we go out and collect petition signatures with paper and pen, which is required by law … how can we be expected to do that when there’s a global pandemic?” he said. “It really would be endangering us, the petitioners, and the general public, people we’re interacting with, to force us to do that.”
Over the course of the past year the Green Party has sought “relief” either in the form of making the signature collection process electronic, reducing the number of signatures required, further extending the deadline, or waiving the requirement altogether. Those efforts were unsuccessful, Trudeau said.
“This is really unfair, it really disenfranchised registered Greens and our state party in North Carolina, to rescind their voter registration as Greens if we don’t collect these signatures in a short period of time,” he said.
While North Carolina law does not explicitly prohibit the collection of electronic signatures, the Board of Elections’ policy is that it does not accept electronic signatures “because there are no mechanisms currently in place to determine how those would be collected and verified,” Gannon said.
The Constitution Party is an independent, conservative party that says its seven core values are: sanctity of life, religious freedom, traditional family, private property rights, pro-Second Amendment, national sovereignty, and anti-socialism.
In addition to the signatures that the state has verified, Constitution Party Chairman Al Pisano said in an email the party has collected another 1,000 signatures that have yet to be submitted. That still leaves the party more than 10,000 signatures short of the requirement.
Pisano said the party is “exploring all our options at this time,” and noted that the June 12 deadline could be changed if the General Assembly moved the date of this year’s municipal elections. According to the Board of Elections, municipal election dates are determined based on “N.C. General Statutes, a local act of the General Assembly, and/or municipal charters.”
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