Amidst all the charges back and forth regarding election laws of our state there is one thing on which both Democrats and Republicans obviously agree: They want to make it as difficult as possible for third parties and independent candidates to get on our election ballot.
North Carolina is ranked as the third worst state in the nation in terms of ballot access requirements. Prior to 1888, there were no ballot access restrictions, of course there were no printed ballots until 1901, and they allowed only Democrats and Republicans. Third parties were excluded until 1929, when the requirement was that a third-party must have 10,000 authorized voter signatures to gain access and must receive 3 percent of the total gubernatorial vote to remain on the next ballot.
In 2003, The Electoral Fairness Act was introduced in the legislature. It would have reduced the necessary number of signatures from the then existing 2 percent to 0.5 percent of voters participating in the last gubernatorial election and would reduce from 10 percent to 2 percent the number of voters required to maintain ballot access. The co-speakers of the House (one Democrat and the other Republican) wouldn’t allow it to be brought to a vote, even though it passed unanimously in the Election Law committee.
The bill was reintroduced in 2005, passed out of committee and made it to the House floor, where a last-minute amendment was passed effectively gutting the bill, by eliminating the reduction in the number of signatures needed to gain ballot access. That number currently exceeds 70,000 qualified voters signing a petition.
Democrats and Republicans joined together to kill the 2003 initiative but Democrats were all that was needed to scuttle the 2005 effort. Republicans are aware of the difficulty in gaining ballot access but didn’t include this in the wide-sweeping changes the enacted this year. The official spin is that nobody wants to encourage a “proliferation of frivolous third parties.”
We could handle some “frivolous” right now. Who knows? I’ve recently heard a lot about competition being a good thing…maybe it might be good in elections, too.