RALEIGH – In October of 2017 the North Carolina General Assembly reformed requirements to attain ballot access, effectively expanding the field of parties beyond that of Democrat and Republican. Tuesday the N.C. Green Party was deemed in compliance with the new lower thresholds and can now choose candidates at its own convention.
Senate Bill 656 was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper last year due to a provision that eliminated judicial primaries in the state. The Republican super-majorities overrode Cooper’s veto and he subsequently sued them over the law, of course.
The ballot access portion of the legislation, now law, lowered the threshold for the required signatures to form a new political party by 75 percent (from two percent, to 0.25 percent). It also gives an alternate route for access; if their candidates appeared on ballots in at least 35 states in the last presidential election. The Green Party is using this new qualification method.
Previously, only the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian parties had met the thresholds for ballot access.
For Unaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot for a statewide election, the signature threshold was lowered from two percent of qualified voters participating in the last general election, to 1.5 percent.
Having alternate party candidates to choose from come election time is viewed as a big win for groups across the political spectrum. Think, Constitution Party, or Conservative Party, or likewise, the Green Party, or Socialist Party.
Perhaps new parties with statewide ballot access can pressure the two main parties in someways, and plenty of voters will be pleased to pick a nominee from their favored political faction. However, other parts of the statute portend more power of the party establishment, whether it be the Republican Party or the new Green Party, to crown their favored candidates via the primary process.
The plurality threshold, the percentage of votes cast a primary candidate needs to received to be declared the party nominee, was lowered from 40 percent to 30 percent.
If a nominee for a single office is to be selected, and there is more than one person seeking nomination, the substantial plurality shall be ascertained by multiplying the total vote cast for all aspirants by thirty percent (30%). Any excess of the sum so ascertained shall be a substantial plurality, and the aspirant who obtains a substantial plurality shall be declared the nominee. If two candidates receive a substantial plurality, the candidate receiving the highest vote shall be declared the nominee.
On one hand, that means it could be easier for, say, a principled conservative candidate to reach the threshold for plurality and win a nomination. On the other hand, it means the Establishment gets to use its tools to reach that same threshold and the opportunity to more easily crowd out principled candidates by encouraging other entrants to dilute the vote.
There is no runoff election. Are we supposed to feel comfortable with a candidate receiving the nomination with only 30 percent of the total vote? Nearly three-quarters of votes cast for someone else, yet this one candidate wins the nomination with earning less than a third of the vote?
Without a runoff primary election between the top two candidates, I struggle to understand how such a system is representative. It is easier to understand how that benefits party Establishment types. The entirely new parties will dilute the pool even further.
But, hey, at least the radical environmentalist communists can vote their own ticket now.