Hannah Schoenbaum
Schoenbaum covers government and politics in North Carolina.
H_Schoenbaumhschoenbaum@ap.org

Green Party sues NC elections board over petition rejection

July 14, 2022 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Green Party filed suit against the state Board of Elections on Thursday over the board’s refusal to allow party candidates to appear on the November ballot.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, alleges the board violated the Green Party’s right to due process by rejecting the petition without prior notice or an opportunity for the party to defend the integrity of its petitioning process.

“We are fighting for our democracy against this corrupt, lawless and partisan decision by the State Board of Elections,” said Matthew Hoh, the Green Party’s unofficial U.S. Senate candidate. “This case will determine whether the political establishment can abuse its power to stop another party from participating in elections.

Two weeks ago, the board rejected the party’s petition to appear on the ballot, saying its decision was based on an investigation that called into question the validity of more than 2,000 signatures. After county boards of elections validated just under 16,000 of the more than 22,000 signatures submitted by the Green Party – seemingly exceeding the 13,865-signature requirement – state board Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said several county officials identified irregularities.

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She cited examples at a board meeting last month of petition sheets with nearly identical handwriting, incomplete personal information, duplicate names and deceased signatories.

The Green Party said the Democrat-driven 3-2 vote was a politically motivated decision. Green Party certification could divide progressive voters and clear a path for GOP victories in key races, including the tight U.S. Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd.

Bell said Thursday that some previously validated signatures are now under review. The state board has learned that several county boards did not properly verify the signatures they received. They have been directed do so by July 29, giving the state board enough time to reassess the Green Party’s certification bid before the deadline to print ballots.

However, the investigation has already led the Green Party to miss the July 1 deadline to nominate candidates – a point of contention between the two Republican board members who voted in favor of certification and the three Democrats who voted in opposition.

The only way for Green Party candidates to appear on the November ballot now would be by court order or legislative action from the General Assembly, which wrapped up its work session on July 1, according to the state board.

The lawsuit also alleges Democratic Party operatives interfered with the petition campaign, sighting several examples of signatories who said they received phone calls and text messages from people posing as Green Party representatives.

“We filed this case to protect the right of all North Carolina voters to vote in a free and fair election, not the Democrats’ attempt to win by suppressing voter choice,” said Oliver Hall, attorney for the Green Party.

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Prior to last month’s vote, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee acknowledged contacting signatories on the Green Party’s petition to request they retract their signatures. The DSCC is working to elect Beasley and other Democrats nationwide.

Texts sent from the committee to signatories warned the Green Party could spoil efforts for Beasley and other Democrats, giving Republicans “a huge advantage that will help them win North Carolina in 2022 and 2024.”

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Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.