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N.C. Certifies Green Party but No Guarantee for Ballot Slot

The State Board of Elections voted unanimously to certify the Green Party as an official political party, but the deadline for new candidates was July 1; now a court order or legislative action is the last way for the party to be on the ballot.

(TNS) — The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to certify The Green Party as an official party.

“Some have suggested that we should make this decision quickly rather than ensure that it was done correctly,” Board Chairperson Damon Circosta, who initially voted against certification in June, said. “A hasty decision would have been a disservice to the voters of this state and the law. We spent the time and the effort to get it right.”

The board voted against certifying the Green Party in June, citing potential fraud in the petition campaign. While the board has now certified the party, the decision is somewhat moot as the filing deadline for new candidates passed on July 1. The only way for the Green Party to get on the November ballot now is through a court order or legislative action.

The state board directed all county boards of elections to complete a signature matching review of all Green Party petitions prior to Monday’s meeting. After doing so, the board found that the Green Party still had 1,607 signatures more than what was required to become a new party.

Although the party is now certified, board staff said the investigation into potential fraud continues and any criminal findings will be referred to prosecutors.

The Green Party has filed a lawsuit against the state board, alleging that by denying the it a spot on the ballot the board violated the party’s due process and First Amendment rights.

“NCSBE’s failure to certify NCGP as a new political party, despite NCGP’s compliance with all applicable requirements under state law, without providing NCGP with notice or an opportunity to defend the validity of the signatures on its petitions or the integrity of its petitioning process, violates Plaintiffs’ right to due process of law,” the lawsuit reads.

The board filed a response to the lawsuit on Friday, writing that it opposed the Green Party’s demand that a judge order its inclusion the 2022 ballot. But the NCSBE does not oppose the party’s request that the candidate filing deadline be extended, should the board certify the party at its meeting Monday.

The board’s response also included a declaration from Matthew Martucci, the board’s lead investigator.

“The Investigation Division elevated the Green Party investigation as a potentially criminal matter with high priority due to observing a pattern of petition pages submitted containing what appeared to be noticeably fraudulent signatures,” he wrote.

Oliver Hall, the Green Party’s lawyer, said the board had no legal basis to deny the party’s certification.

“Even if the board certifies NCGP tomorrow, as it is required to do, the harm that its unlawful and unconstitutional actions have caused NCGP is immeasurable,” he said in a text to The News & Observer.

A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8 on the lawsuit.

The denial of the party’s certification, as well as the involvement of powerful organizations on both sides of the aisle have raised questions about political motivations in the process of certifying new parties.

Leading up to the board’s initial vote in June, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is represented by The Elias Group — a law firm tied to influential Democratic politicians — began contacting people who signed the Green party’s petition for ballot access and asking them to remove their signatures.

“If the Green Party is on the ballot it will give Republicans a huge advantage that will help them win in North Carolina in 2022 and 2024,” texts from the DSCC to petition signers said.

Last week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed an amicus brief in support of the Green Party’s lawsuit.

“The Democratic Party has acknowledged that it would benefit politically if the Green Party does not appear on the ballot in North Carolina — the Green Party presents a separate option for left-leaning voters in the General Election,” the brief said. “Thus, it is not surprising that the Board’s vote on whether to certify the Green Party was directly split 3-2 along party lines.”

All three Democrats on the board voted against certification, with the two Republicans voting in favor.

Marc Elias, founder of the Elias Group, criticized Republican’s involvement in a Tweet last week.

“It is incredible how *whenever there is actual fraud* in North Carolina, the Republican Party is all for it,” Elias wrote. “Pretend fraud, however, they must do everything in their power to make sure that can never happen.”

The Elias Group has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The N&O.

The state board maintains that its decision was not made for political reasons.

“There is nothing political about this that’s being performed by state board staff,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state board said. “This is us administering elections as prescribed by our law.”

©2022 Raleigh News & Observer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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