On March 11, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 5-1 that the petition to put a new political party on the ballot, 2% of the last gubernatorial vote, does not violate the State Constitution. Here is the 17-page opinion, and the 9-page dissent. For 2012, the law requires 85,379 signatures. Except in California and Florida, there is no instance in U.S. history in which any political party, or independent candidate, has ever overcome a signature petition requirement that high.
The decision seems to assume, without any discussion, that the State Constitutional provision “All elections shall be free” (Article I, section 10) doesn’t give any more protection for ballot access than the U.S. Constitution does. Nor does the decision discuss the North Carolina Constitutional provision that says “Every qualified voter, except as in this Constitution disqualified, shall be eligible for election by the people to office.” The decision depends on the unfavorable ballot access decisions that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued over the last 40 years, not on decisions of the North Carolina Supreme Court that interpret the State Constitution.
The decision erroneously implies that many other states do not let primary voters sign a petition for a new party. The decision mentions an Ohio election law that refers to petitions to place a candidate on a party’s primary ballot, and says that Ohio is therefore a state in which only party members may sign a petition to place a party on the ballot. This is a factual error. The decision also mentions that California once wouldn’t let primary voters sign for an independent candidate, but that has nothing to do with petitions to create a new party; furthermore California abandoned that restriction in 1976. Texas is the only state in the nation that won’t let primary voters sign a new party’s petition. Thanks to Mike Munger for the link.