The State Board of Elections on Thursday voted not to recognize the Green Party as an official political party in North Carolina, citing an ongoing investigation into evidence of fraud and other irregularities in the petition process used to request access to the ballot for the party.
By a vote of 3 to 2, Council rejected a motion to recognize the Green Party, concluding that the petitions were not yet sufficient under the law.
Recognition would have allowed Green Party candidates to appear on ballots in the November 2022 general election. It would also have allowed voters in North Carolina to register as Green Party affiliates. Currently, voters in North Carolina can register as unaffiliated or as members of the Democratic, Libertarian, or Republican parties.
Green Party petitioners must be registered voters. Petition pages submitted to election officials include voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth and signatures. This allows county election commissions to verify names, addresses and signatures against voter registration records and validate or reject each signature as required by law. SNCG § 163-96(c). The State Council must then review the petitions verified by county councils to determine their sufficiency.
In recent weeks, North Carolina county election commissions validated enough signatures from registered voters to place the party on the 13,865 required to be recognized under state law.
However, as county councils reviewed Green Party petition sheets and later when the State Council considered these petitions, several counties and State Council staff identified numerous irregularities. The Council of State has opened an investigation into the apparent irregularities. The investigation is ongoing.
To date, the investigation has found numerous petition pages containing signs of fraud or other irregularities. This includes signatures that had previously been approved by county councils. Irregularities include:
- The same handwriting throughout a petition page and/or signatures that clearly appear to be written by the same person. It is illegal to sign another person’s name to a petition.
- Three signature collection contractors hired for this petition collected 1,472 signatures, but only 624 were accepted. At least three workers were paid by the signature collected.
- Voters apparently signed petitions more than once.
- Voters whose names appear on the signature sheets say they never signed the petition.
- Petition sheets include deceased voters or voters long removed from voter registration files, indicating the submission of signature sheets from a previous Green Party petition campaign.
- The signature pages identify a former Green Party president, also indicating the submission of stale signatures.
Below SNCG § 163-96, there are three ways to create a new political party. The method used by the Green Party requires the party to collect the signatures of 0.25% of the number of registered voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or in this case 13,865 signatures.
The prospective party must also obtain at least 200 signatures from registered voters in three of the state’s 14 congressional districts.
In March 2018, the Council of State recognized the Green Party as a political party after a new state law allowed political parties with a candidate on the ballot in at least 70 percent of states in the last presidential election to seek recognition. The Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate, Jill Stein, was on the ballots of 38 states. The party lost recognition after failing to garner the required 2% of the total vote for its gubernatorial candidate or for presidential voters in the 2020 general election. In 2021, voters formerly affiliated with the Green Party switched to unaffiliated status.