The first step in the process to become a recognized and ballot qualified political party in North Carolina is to comply with North Carolina General Statute Chapter 163, Section 96(a)(2) which outlines the requirements. It states that new political parties must obtain signatures on a petition equal in number to two percent of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent election for Governor. Furthermore the petitions must contain at least 200 signatures from each of at least four of North Carolina’s Congressional Districts.
To figure out the exact number of signatures a new political party would need to gain access to the ballot we need the vote statistics of the most recent election for Governor. Since the 2004 General Election was the most recent election for Governor, we must use these statistics. The voter statistics from the NC State Board of Elections indicate that a total of 3,486,688 voters voted for Governor in 2004, which means that a new Political Party in North Carolina would have to obtain at least 69,734 verified signatures total to obtain ballot access for the 2008 General Election, by the first day of June of the election year the party wishes to participate in.
Let’s break this down a little bit. If we assume that the political party is going to gather signatures over a period of four full years, then that new political party would need to obtain:
-At least 17,434 signatures per year for four years straight.
-At least 1,453 signatures per month for four years straight.
-At least 336 signatures per week for four years straight.
-At least 47 signatures every day for four years straight.
-Signatures from approximately 1 out of every 80 registered voters in the State of North Carolina.
Then after a political party has overcome these restrictive, and unconstitutional ballot access measures which often cost the party thousands upon thousands of dollars to complete, diverting critical campaign funds from their needed purpose, this new party must be able to meet the standard, or definition, for a political party as set forth in NC General Statute Chapter 163, Section 96(a)(1). This section states that the definition for a political party in the state, is one that polls at least two percent of the total vote for its candidate for Governor or Presidential electors in the election(s) it participates in, which again is tens of thousands of votes depending on voter turnout. In conjunction with the prior, NC General Statute Chapter 163, Section 97 states that if any political party fails to meet that criteria set forth, it automatically loses ballot access and must once again start the process all over again. So not only does a new political party have to spend thousands of dollars that could be used elsewhere for better things simply for the state to print its candidates on the ballot and give the citizens of North Carolina another choice of election day, they have to keep a certain percentage of the vote, and again it is a high percentage, to keep ballot access and avoid the burdensome task of gathering signatures again.
These restrictions have changed, sometimes becoming worse and at some points no as bad, since their origin in North Carolina back in 1901. Yet, the same point stands today, that these restrictions are politically biased and discriminatory based on the citizen’s political affiliation and effectively work to restrain outside interference and competition from third party candidates. Besides the state not allowing candidates for third political parties, which have not met the states outrageous and unconstitutional ballot access requirements, to appear on the ballot, these laws do something much worse. In essense, the State is blatantly telling the North Carolina voter that if you want to cast your vote for a candidate outside of the two-major party candidates that you cannot vote (unless your party has overcome the state’s insane requirements). You can read the actual text of the laws refered to in these section, below.
Note: Typically, on average, only 70% of the signatures submitted are accepted as valid by the state, so in reality candidates/political parties must obtain many more signatures than the requirements state in the law to get on the ballot.
§ 163-96. “Political party” defined; creation of new party.
(a) Definition. – A political party within the meaning of the election laws of this State shall be either:
(1) Any group of voters which, at the last preceding general State election, polled for its candidate for Governor, or for presidential electors, at least two percent (2%) of the entire vote cast in the State for Governor or for presidential electors; or
(2) Any group of voters which shall have filed with the State Board of Elections petitions for the formulation of a new political party which are signed by registered and qualified voters in this State equal in number to two percent (2%) of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent general election for Governor. Also the petition must be signed by at least 200 registered voters from each of four congressional districts in North Carolina. To be effective, the petitioners must file their petitions with the State Board of Elections before 12:00 noon on the first day of June preceding the day on which is to be held the first general State election in which the new political party desires to participate. The State Board of Elections shall forthwith determine the sufficiency of petitions filed with it and shall immediately communicate its determination to the State chairman of the proposed new political party.