NC: Ballot Access, Top Two Only bills introduced

Ballot Access News

On April 11, North Carolina Representatives Ken Goodman (D-Rockingham) and Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) introduced HB 737. It converts North Carolina elections for Congress and state office to a top-two system. The bill does not provide for “preference” or “prefers” to appear on the ballot. Nor does it say that the ballot should carry an explanation that party labels on the ballot do not mean that the party approves of any candidate with that party’s label. Therefore, if enacted, it would run afoul of court precedents concerning freedom of association for political parties.

The bill does leave write-in space on the November ballot. However, candidates who filed to run in the May primary, and who didn’t place in the top two, would not be permitted to be write-in candidates in November.

The bill is ambiguous as to whether a candidate registered into an unqualified party would be allowed to have his or her party affiliation printed on the ballot. North Carolina voter registration forms have a blank line for “political party”, so any voter can register into any party he or she desires. However, North Carolina election officials always code voters who register into unqualified parties as non-affiliated, so probably if this bill passed, election officials would not print the party label for a member of an unqualified party.

The bill fails to re-define “political party”. Currently a party remains on the ballot if it polls 2% for President or Governor. However, the provision for 2% for Governor would no longer work, because no party would have nominees for Governor.

Also at Ballot Access News:

On April 11, North Carolina Representatie Bill Shepard (R-Jacksonville) and some other legislators from each major party introduced HB 769. It improves ballot access for newly-qualifying parties and independent candidates. It sets the statewide petition at one-fourth of 1% of the last gubernatorial vote. If the bill were enacted, the 2018 and 2020 statewide petitions would require 11,778 signatures, due in July.

Current law requires 94,221 signatures, and the independent petitions are due in April; the new party petition is due in May.

10 thoughts on “NC: Ballot Access, Top Two Only bills introduced

  1. Andy

    There are efforts popping up all over the nation to implement Top Two Primary. If Top Two passes in enough states it will kill off any chance we have at change via running candidates for office. Stopping Top Two Primary should be a very high priority for all supporters of minor parties and independent candidates.

  2. Richard Winger

    By coincidence, a few minutes ago I got an e-mail from North Carolina Representative Pricey Harrison. She wrote (in response to my e-mail), “Thanks very much for this feedback. In agreeing to sign on to the bill, my motivation was to reduce partisanship. I do appreciate this insight.”

    That makes me feel very good. I had told her that political scientist Boris Shor, the nation’s leading expert on polarization in state legislatures, had just again found that California has the most polarized legislation in the nation, even though California has had top-two for 7 years. Also, Washington, the other top-two state, has the nation’s 5th most polarized legislature.

    It is extremely likely that the North Carolina bill came into existence by the efforts of Omar Ali, a North Carolina activist in the New Alliance Party, which has since transformed itself into “Open Primaries” and which gets funded to work for top-two. Ali attended that group’s New York city meeting last month.

  3. Tony From Long Island

    As a Democrat, I hate this idea and the fact that it is Democrats introducing it. The Republicans are the party that often does their best to make elections less transparent and harder to participate in.

    I hope this doesn’t get out of committee.

  4. Brian Irving

    I think Richard’s response from Pricey Harrison is key. She’s a genuine friend of opening up ballot access. In fact, she just signed on to HB 769 which would lower the barrier for new parties and independent candidates to get onNC’s ballot. With only Democrat sponsors, I seriously doubt the top-two bill will go anywhere. Whereas HB 769 has both Rs and Ds, so it may get some traction.

  5. Bob Haran


    So how is the current closed partisan primary system working for independents and third parties?

    How many third party and independent candidates have been elected to Congress or state legislatures under the present primary system?

    The current system is unfair to independents and third parties by keeping them from the first round primary were a divided vote among the major party candidates might aid in obtaining top two status and eliminating one of the major parties from the second round general election. Think about it, you have an open seat in a Democrat or Republican district, three or four or more candidates of the dominate party decide to run and two or more from the other major party decide to run and a third party or independent candidate runs in an open primary. The dominate party vote is divided by three or four or more and the other major party vote is divided by two or more, this leaves an opportunity for a strong third party to share the second round general election ballot with one of the major parties. If the major party is a Democrat, many Republicans may vote for the third party. If the major party is a Republican, many Democrats may vote third party. One thing is certain, many more voters will be taking a serious look at the third party and the third party becomes a viable alternative to the one other major party. The major parties are opposed to open-top two primaries because it could keep them off the general election ballot and allow a third party to displace them as one of the two major parties.

    Third parties think it benefits them to have a place on the general election ballot, if they can get on the general election ballot. What is the point of being on the ballot if you have no chance of winning and taking part in the government? And if a political party has no chance of being elected and part of the government, why support them?

    The current closed primary system is really a two major party general election system, the Democrat and Republican parties.

    For God and country,
    Bob Haran.

  6. Bob Haran

    You still need a good candidate with enough popular support to get people to vote for your party.

  7. Richard Winger

    There are six different systems. Top-two supporters like to make people think there is only top-two or closed primaries. But there is also the Louisiana system, in which primaries have been abolished and there is just a general election and if no one gets 50%, a runoff. There is also the blanket primary, used by the Alaska Democratic, Libertarian and Alaskan Independence Parties. There are also 19 states with true, classic open primaries, in which there is no such thing as voter registration into a party, and any voter can choose any party’s primary ballot. Finally there are semi-closed primaries, in which party members can ony have their own party’s primary ballot, but independents can choose any primary ballot.

    Every even year there are about 25 independents and minor party members elected to state legislatures around the nation. But no independent or minor party member has ever been elected to a state legislature, or any other partisan office, in a top-two state.

    Besides, winning seats isn’t the only reason people participate in minor parties in the U.S. Just having the opportunity to campaign in the general election season is valuable all by itself. Top two takes away the ability of minor party members to campaign in the general election season (except in the elections in which only one major party candidate entered the race).

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