Judge rules Green Party must be on November ballot in North Carolina

Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

A judge has ruled that the Green Party must appear on the November 2022 ballot, appearing to end a months-long saga of lawsuits, outside interference and allegations of fraud.

Federal Judge James C. Dever III ruled that the North Carolina State Board of Elections must place the Green Party’s candidates for U.S. Senate and state Senate on the ballot.

“It’s a great victory not only for the Green Party and its supporters, but for all North Carolina voters,” Oliver Hall, the Green Party’s lawyer, said in a phone interview with The News & Observer. “Because the Democratic Party should not be in a position of dictating to voters for whom they may vote when they go to the polls”

The ruling also appears to moot an intervening lawsuit in state court from the North Carolina Democratic Party. Dever wrote that the jurisdiction for this decision lies solely in federal court, and that the state board would be in contempt if it did not follow this order.

“It is a federal constitutional issue concerning whether applying the July 1 candidate-filing deadline in light of the timing of the board’s investigation and certification violates plaintiffs’ rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” Dever wrote.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to certify the Green Party on Monday, reversing a previous decision from June in which the board’s Democratic majority denied certification, citing concerns of fraud.

The Green Party then sued the board, claiming this denial violated its First Amendment and due process rights.

In the meantime, the board’s investigation into fraud continued, and the state ordered all county boards of elections to complete a signature matching review of Green Party petitions. After doing so and finding that the Green Party still had more valid signatures than required to become a new political party, the board voted to certify.

However, this vote came after the July 1 deadline for filing new candidates, and the board lacks the statutory authority to extend the deadline. This meant that the final decision would go to Dever.

At the state level, the N.C. Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections, arguing that it should not have certified the party with a fraud investigation ongoing. The suit asks the judge to prohibit the Green Party from being officially recognized in the state until the investigation is completed.

“NCSBE’s decision to recognize the NCGP as a political party was premature and abdicated NCSBE’s duty to protect its political processes from fraud,” the lawsuit says.

This isn’t the first effort from Democrats to keep the Green Party off the ballot.

Before the state board’s initial vote in June, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a campaign to convince signers of the Green Party petition to revoke their signatures. Signers were contacted by text and phone and in person by operatives telling them that having the Green Party on the ballot would hurt Democrats in the election and help Republicans.

The Elias Group, a D.C.-based law firm connected to major Democratic politicians, also got involved. The firm submitted multiple complaints to the state board about fraud in the Green Party’s petition campaign, asking the board to invalidate hundreds of signatures.

The matter appears to be resolved, for now. It is unclear whether the N.C. Democratic Party will abandon its lawsuit in state court given Dever’s ruling. A representative for the NCDP could not be reached for comment on Friday evening after the ruling was released.