Last-minute effort to keep Green Party off NC ballot rejected by federal appeals court

·4 min read
Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

A federal appeals court shot down Democrats’ last-ditch effort to keep the North Carolina Green Party off the November ballot, just one day before the state’s deadline for printing ballots.

It’s not the last word on the case in the courts, but any further potential ruling would likely come after ballots have already been printed with the Green Party’s candidates listed.

This means that the Green Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, Matthew Hoh, will almost certainly join the contentious race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd. A Libertarian, Shannon Bray, is also running.

Michael Trudeau, the Green candidate for state Senate district 16, would be included on ballots as well.

“As tomorrow is the deadline for finalizing ballot preparation we believe this decision by the 4th Circuit keeps Michael Trudeau and me on the ballot in November,” Hoh said in a statement.

Democrats’ court fight

After a U.S. District Court ruled in the Green Party’s favor last week, ordering that the state board must place the party’s two candidates on the ballot, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee appealed.

“Granting NCGP ballot access will irreparably harm appellants by forcing them to compete with a party that did not comply with the statutory deadline for naming candidates and that is not eligible for ballot access, requiring appellants to expend party resources they would otherwise use for other purposes,” the Democrats’ appeal said.

The News & Observer couldn’t reach a representative for the DSCC by phone immediately following the court’s order on Thursday.

The DSCC had filed an emergency motion on Tuesday asking that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals put the lower court’s decision on hold to extend the candidate filing deadline and allow the Green candidates on the ballot.

The State Board of Elections then filed a response, taking no side in the matter but asking the court to issue a ruling before Aug. 12 — the board’s administrative deadline for printing ballots.

Democrats had also asked the district court to put its own order on hold, a request that Judge Dever forcefully declined prior to the appeals court’s decision.

“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,” Dever wrote, going on to say that the Democrats did not enter the court “with clean hands.”

The Green Party echoed Dever’s argument, claiming that the Democrats had no legal basis for their challenge but rather hoped to stave off competition.

“The DSCC apparently hopes to sow confusion just long enough for NCSBE’s August 12 ballot-printing deadline to pass, leaving NCGP without a remedy that protects its constitutional right to participate in North Carolina’s 2022 general election,” Oliver Hall, the party’s lawyer, wrote in his response to the appeal.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declined the Democrats’ request to put the lower court’s order on hold Thursday.

The Democrats’ appeal was the latest in a long string of efforts to keep the Green Party off the ballot in November. The N&O reported that the DSCC and the Elias Group, a Washington-based law firm with ties to major Democratic politicians, undertook a campaign to prevent the party from being certified by the state board of elections.

The DSCC contacted voters who had signed the Green Party’s petition for ballot access and tried to convince them to revoke their signatures. Meanwhile, the Elias Group obtained all petition materials used in the Green Party’s campaign and submitted complaints to the state board regarding allegations of fraudulent signatures.

The state board’s investigation into the fraud allegations continues. The board has said any criminal findings would be referred to prosecutors. After asking all county elections boards to check signatures, the state board found the Green Party still had more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at https://campsite.bio/underthedome or wherever you get your podcasts.