CCD Defeats Democrats' Effort to Suppress Voter Choice in NC -- Court Orders Greens on Ballot!
August 5, 2022 (Raleigh, NC) -- United States District Judge James C. Dever III today issued an order directing the North Carolina State Board of Elections ("NCSBE") to certify the North Carolina Green Party ("NCGP") as a qualified party in North Carolina and to place its candidates, Matthew Hoh for United States Senate and Michael Trudeau for State Senate District 16, on North Carolina's November 8th general election ballot.
CCD filed suit against NCSBE on behalf of NCGP, its candidates and several supporters on July 14, 2022, after NCSBE voted on party lines not to certify NCGP as a qualified political party even though it had complied with all applicable requirements under North Carolina law. The three Democratic members of NCSBE voted against certification while the two Republicans voted for certification.
To qualify as a new party, NCGP was required to submit nomination petitions signed by at least 13,865 qualified voters to county boards of elections for validation. NCGP submitted petitions signed by 22,530 North Carolina voters. The county boards of elections validated 16,117 signatures -- 2,252 more valid signatures than the requirement.
After NCGP timely submitted its validated signatures to NCSBE, however, NCSBE on June 30, 2022 voted 3-2 not to certify the party. The Democratic members voting against certification did not claim that NCGP failed to fulfill any requirement under North Carolina law, nor did they cite any legal authority for their refusal to certify NCGP. Instead, NCSBE Chair Damon Circosta asserted that NCSBE staff needed additional time to investigate alleged "irregularities" in NCGP's petitions. NCSBE never provided NCGP with any evidence of the alleged irregularities, nor did it give NCGP any opportunity to defend itself against the allegations.
NCGP's two-count Complaint asserts that NCSBE's failure to certify NCGP despite its timely compliance with all applicable requirements under North Carolina law violates the Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights and their right to Due Process of law.
In his order (page 21), Judge Dever found that NCSBE had adopted "completely contradictory positions" with respect to NCGP's request for relief and that its conduct "reflects bad faith."
While NCSBE was considering whether to certify NCGP's petitions, unidentified operatives affiliated with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ("DSCC") and the North Carolina Democratic Party ("NCDP") engaged in a widespread effort to convince NCGP petition signers to remove their names from NCGP's petitions. Petition signers received repeated text messages, phone calls and even visits to their homes from strangers asking them to remove their names from the petitions.
The Democratic operatives stated that they were asking NCGP petition signers to remove their names from the NCGP petitions because NCGP "takes votes" from Democrats.
In some instances, which NCGP recorded as evidence, the Democratic operatives falsely identified themselves as representatives of NCGP itself.
The Elias Law Group, which frequently represents the DSCC, then filed several complaints with NCSBE, which alleged "fraud" in NCGP's petitions.
Meanwhile, a team of NCSBE "investigators" began contacting NCGP petition signers and petition circulators to conduct lengthy interviews in which they asked about every aspect of NCGP's petition drive. The investigators did not disclose any factual basis for their inquiries. Nonetheless, NCGP directed its petition signers and circulators to cooperate with the investigators and provide all requested information.
As Republican NCSBE member Tommy Tucker observed, NCSBE's investigation of petition signatures that had been validated by county boards of elections was unprecedented. He noted that NCSBE's investigators "would scare a lot of people" and convince them to remove their names from NCGP's petitions.
From June 1, 2022, when NCGP submitted its validated petitions to NCSBE, until August 5, 2022, when Judge Dever entered his order, it has remained undisputed that NCGP submitted far more valid signatures than required under North Carolina law and that it had complied with all other applicable requirements.
The DSCC and the NCDP, represented by the Elias Law Group, nevertheless intervened in NCGP's lawsuit in an effort to block NCSBE from certifying NCGP as a party.
The case, North Carolina Green Party v. North Carolina State Board of Elections, No. 5:22-cv-00276-D-BM (E.D. N.C.), remains pending in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
UPDATE: On August 8, 2022, the DSCC and NCDP appealed Judge Dever's order to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and filed a motion to stay the order pending appeal.
Judge Dever denied the DSCC's and NCDP's motion in an order entered on August 10, 2022. He concluded that the intervenors "do not appear in this court with clean hands." Judge Dever explained, "it is plain for anyone who looks to see that the intervenors simply do not want to give voters the option to vote for the two Green Party candidates because the intervenors fear that some voters will vote for the two Green Party candidates instead of the Democratic candidates."
UPDATE: On August 30, 2022, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the DSCC's and NCDP's appeal, effectively ensuring that NCGP will remain certified as a party and that its candidates will appear on North Carolina's November 8, 2022 general election ballot.