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North Carolina Green Party Sues State for Ballot Access

July 14, 2022 by Dan McCue
North Carolina Green Party Sues State for Ballot Access
Matthew Hoh, who wants to run for U.S. Senate this year as a Green Party candidate in North Carolina.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Green Party sued the state Board of Elections on Thursday, asking a judge to force party candidates onto the 2022 ballot despite an ongoing investigation into allegedly fraudulent signatures in the paperwork of the party’s candidates.

The filing came just hours after Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, released an update on the status of the investigation.

Brinson Bell said the investigation is ongoing, but has been “hindered” by the refusal of an Arkansas-based consultant and signature collectors hired in the effort to cooperate with State Board investigators.

Investigators are seeking to quantify the number of suspected fraudulent signatures submitted by the Green Party.

“We all recognize how important this decision is, but we cannot provide a clear recommendation to the State Board without enough information to determine whether the party has collected the number of valid signatures required by law,” Brinson Bell said. 

“We continue to investigate and make further attempts to contact individuals we believe were involved in submitting false signatures. To date, they have not been cooperative. Hopefully, we will be able to make a concrete recommendation to the State Board — based on facts — in the near future,” she added.

The State Board opened an investigation into the Green Party petition process in May, after several local boards of elections complained about irregularities discovered as they reviewed petition pages.

A month later, its members voted 3-2 to leave the Green Party off the ballot. The vote was along party lines with the board’s Democratic majority voting not to certify.

Members of the Green Party have claimed the Democrats voted the way they did out of concern that Green Party candidates would more likely siphon off support from Democrats than Republicans in the upcoming general election.

To date the investigation has reportedly found a number of fake signatures on petition pages, some of which appear to have been signed as part of an organized effort to game the petition process.

Nearly 40 people contacted by one local county Board of Elections said they did not sign the petition on which their names were listed.

Some petitions had the same individual’s handwriting throughout many pages and, finally, many petitions were submitted with incomplete information, including areas where addresses or dates of birth had been crossed out.

According to the State Board, Green Party representatives have themselves acknowledged in published statements that fraudulent signatures were submitted. 

“The question is whether there are still enough valid signatures to qualify the party for recognition in North Carolina,” Brinson Bell said.  

Some of the paperwork those collectors turned in “may contain thousands of fraudulent signatures,” she added.

Under state law, the party must receive 13,865 real signatures from registered voters, including at least 200 signatures from at least three congressional districts.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in the federal court in Raleigh, the Green Party contends the State Board of Elections has “not presented … evidence of the purported ‘irregularities’ in its petitions, nor has it given [the party] any opportunity to defend the validity of the signatures on its petitions.”

Further, the party claims the State Board of Elections has submitted over 2,000 more valid  signatures than required under state law.

Brinson Bell told elections board members during her update Thursday that the investigation is ongoing and that she has given county election boards until July 29 to report back with completed findings.

Once counties certify that they’ve done so, state officials plan to update the Green Party’s total signature count, she said. 

The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit are North Carolina voters who say they want to vote for Green Party candidates in the November 2022 general election, but will be prevented from doing so unless the State Board of Elections certifies the petitions and places the Green Party’s candidates on the general election ballot.

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the State Board of Elections’ failure to certify the North Carolina Green Party as a new political party in the state is unconstitutional, and an order directing the board to place its candidates on the November ballot.

Time is of the essence, however, as the state plans to start printing paper ballots for November in mid-August.

Separately, the Elias Law Group in Washington, which represents the Democratic National Committee on election matters, has reportedly produced affidavits from more than 145 people who said they want their signatures removed from Green Party petitions.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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