Voters in North Carolina now have another choice when it’s time to register.
The State Board of Elections on Monday voted 4-0 to recognize the North Carolina Green Party as an official political party in the state.
The move was delayed due to an investigation into roughly five percent of the signatures on petitions.
Last month, the state BoE opened a probe into suspected fraudulent signatures gathered for the Green Party’s bid for new party recognition. The investigation is ongoing, state officials said in a press release, but was slowed by the refusal of paid consultants and signature collectors to cooperate with State Board investigators. The investigators are still trying to determine exactly how many signatures may be fraudulent, but the number involved was not enough to affect the party’s petition bid. Under state law, the party must receive 13,865 real signatures from registered voters, including at least 200 signatures from at least three congressional districts.
Green Party representatives have themselves acknowledged in on social media and news outlets that fraudulent signatures were submitted.
State BoE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said. “We continue to investigate and make further attempts to contact individuals we believe were involved in submitting false signatures. To date, they have not been cooperative. Hopefully, we will be able to make a concrete recommendation to the State Board – based on facts – in the near future.”
The State Board opened an investigation into the Green Party petition process on May 13, after several county boards of elections contacted the State Board about irregularities discovered as they reviewed petition pages.
The BoE reported finding organized efforts to fake multiple signatures, the same handwriting in a number of petitions, duplicate names, and partial or missing information. In one case, the state BoE said 38 voters contacted their elections board denying having signed a petition.
July 29 was the deadline set by the State Board for county boards to verify signatures on the Green Party petition pages against voter records. Under North Carolina law, county boards of elections must “examine and verify the signatures” on a petition and verify that the “signatures on the petition have been checked against the registration records”. This is how election officials authenticate the voter’s identity.
The petition controversy was not the only drama involving the new party designation.
A July 14 lawsuit filed by the Green party against the state board said that the same language used in public records requests indicate a former legal intern to Gov. Roy Cooper now works with the Elias Law Group, the attorneys working to keep the Greens off the midterm ballot. The greens claim that Cooper has conspired with the Elias group and the state’s Democrat party to stymie efforts by the Green Party to be recognized.
Political observers speculate that the growth in the Green Party and its attraction to younger voters could split the Democrat voter base this fall, weakening both parties while strengthening Republicans. The Green Party has already expressed its desire to add Matthew Hoh to the U.S. Senate race, a move Democrats fear would draw votes away from former State Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley.
Recognition of the Green Party means voters now have another choice of party affiliation when registering to vote or updating their registration. Voters may register with the Democratic, Green, Libertarian, or Republican parties, or they can register as unaffiliated.
Voters previously registered as Green Party affiliates must re-register with the party. Because the deadline in state law for submission of new political party nominees has already passed, it is unclear whether Green Party candidates will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, the state BoE said.
The Green party’s federal court fight could extend to the time ballot preparation begins in mid-August. The BoE said there still is time to add Green Party candidates to the ballot if the court extends the statutory deadline.
In the meantime, voters can file change of party or registration forms to become official members of the Greens. The state BoE is updating new voter registration forms that include the Green Party option. Until then, voters may register with the Green Party by checking the “Other” box and writing “Green” on the line in “Political Party Affiliation” section of the voter registration application. Updates to party affiliation options available through the Division of Motor Vehicles’ online registration portal will be made as soon as possible.State voter data will be updated to include Green Party registrants as soon as possible.