Battle for Ballot Access: New Parties Face Setback in North Carolina

By: Jordan Meadows, Staff Writer

The North Carolina State Board of Elections recently voted against granting ballot access to new parties that endorse presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West. This decision, made on Wednesday, is preliminary and subject to review before the November election in this pivotal swing state.

Two parties, the We The People party and the Justice for All Party of North Carolina, had launched petition drives to secure official party status. This required a lesser number of valid signatures from registered and eligible voters compared to what Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and author, and West, a progressive activist and professor, would have needed if they were running independently statewide.

The board’s decision revealed a split along party lines: the three-member Democratic majority opted to defer West and Kennedy’s ballot access “for now,” while the two Republican commissioners expressed disappointment with the process.

Chairman Alan Hirsch said more investigation is needed to “look at petition-gathers who have been problematic” and to examine other concerns before making a final decision.

According to an NBC News report, operatives from a GOP firm based out-of-state were covertly gathering signatures for Cornel West. Their actions appeared aimed at “taking away votes from Joe Biden,” as one of the petition collectors disclosed outside a planned rally for former President Donald Trump.

Additionally, the report detailed that three operatives associated with a Republican canvassing firm from Colorado were gathering signatures on behalf of the Justice for All Party, which supports West.

Democrats on the board also expressed concerns about whether volunteers misrepresented Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as an independent candidate rather than positioning him as a potential nominee of the newly formed party. 

The board has tentatively scheduled a meeting for July 9 to revisit the requests of these groups.

In a press release, West’s campaign called the decision “a clear display of anti-democratic tactics” while conceding that there “are legitimate inquiries regarding a small number of signatures and an independent circulator”.

They added that “the Board lacks both the practical means and the legal authority to conduct an exhaustive investigation into the intentions of each person who circulated or signed” the petitions, which they assert makes their actions legally questionable and fundamentally inappropriate. 

The addition of presidential candidates like Kennedy and West intensifies the stakes and uncertainty surrounding the competition for North Carolina’s 16 electoral votes. Republican Donald Trump carried the state in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, though his margin over Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 was less than 1.4 percentage points.

Excluding North Carolina, Kennedy’s campaign has confirmed his ballot inclusion in eight states and has submitted signatures in ten additional states. Meanwhile, the West campaign has secured ballot access in seven other states.

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