RALEIGH — Voters will see another minority party on North Carolina’s ballot.
The Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement unanimously voted Wednesday, June 6, to officially recognize the Constitution Party.
The Constitution Party joins the Green Party and the Libertarian Party on North Carolina’s ballot as third-party alternatives to Democrats and Republicans.
Originally formed as the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992, the party rebranded itself 1999 as the U.S. Constitution Party to better express its commitment to the Founders’ ideas, namely limited government, conservative morality, and a strict reading of the Constitution. The party appeared on 41 state ballots in 2004, but it never made it onto the North Carolina ballot until 2018.
Wednesday’s recognition was a long time in coming, Constitution Party vice-chairman Kevin Hayes said.
It isn’t a coincidence that 2018 alone has marked the introduction of two political parties to the state’s ballot.
In 2015, North Carolina ranked as the 14th most restrictive state for ballot access, according to FairVote. Law required third parties to collect 2 percent of the vote in the previous governor’s election, and 200 registered voters had to come from each of four congressional districts in North Carolina.
Today, that’s 94,222 signatures.
But in the Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, Congress dropped the requirements from 2 percent to .25 percent of the gubernatorial vote, and from four congressional districts to three. Any parties that appeared on the ballot in 70 percent of the states in the previous presidential election also could appear on the North Carolina ballot. The bill passed over Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto in Oct. 2017.
The Green Party qualified for ballot access six months later, and the Constitution Party followed suit Wed. with 12,651 valid signatures.
“For many years I worked very hard at the General Assembly with a lot of other people to get the law lowered,” Hayes said. “This is the first time we’ll be on the ballot in North Carolina. We’ve never had the ability to do that before because the laws have been so restrictive. We’re absolutely thrilled.”
Five other parties have petitioned for ballot access, but so far no party has collected more than 20 valid signatures.
State law requires new political parties to nominate their candidates by convention, which the Constitution Party will hold in Charlotte on June 16. Candidates have until June 12 to apply to run for the Constitution Party’s nomination.
The House of Representatives already would restrict minority parties potential nominees. The House passed Senate Bill 286, which will return to the Senate for concurrence. The bill contains a “sore loser” provision, which extends the law preventing losers from running as write-in candidates to block them from running under a minority party.
“Long story short, the Republicans in Raleigh felt threatened by the Constitution Party,” Hayes said, adding that he believes the provision was a response to the interest Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, expressed in running under the Constitution Party.
Hayes said that he is sure the Constitution Party will challenge the bill if the “sore loser” provision is signed by the governor.