Voices & Choices

The Uncertain Fate of Much-Needed Ballot Access Reform in North Carolina

The Uncertain Fate of Much-Needed Ballot Access Reform in North Carolina

UPDATE: The bill discussed in this story was vetoed by the governor, but the legislature subsequently overrode the veto, making it law. We report on it here.


One way our right to vote can be degraded is by limiting the choices available to vote for. Ballot access laws - the laws governing who can have their name printed on the ballot - vary widely from state to state. To track such people policies and efforts to improve then, the go-to resource is Ballot Access News, led by the indefatigable Richard Winger.

Among the worst states for reasonable ballot access laws is North Carolina. For a minor party or independent candidate to appear on the ballot for president, their campaign must collect a relatively huge number of signatures. In 2016, it was 89,366 signatures, and if the law remains the same, in 2020 it will be 94,221. This is a higher percentage of registered voters than any other state.

There have been multiple efforts for reform. This year, one looked like it has the potential to pass with bipartisan support, for the first time in 31 years. As originally drafted, the bill would have reduced the number of signatures for a minor party to 10,000 and reduced the number of signatures for an independent candidate to 5,000.

However, the bill was amended multiple times, most notably to eliminate judicial primary elections and lower the threshold for nomination in primary elections that would trigger a primary runoff to 30 percent. These changes attracted significant criticism and have divided the state, incurring opposition from most Democrats in the state. They also make a veto from North Carolina’s Democratic governor more likely.

For more information on this bill, see Richard Winger’s blog post about it at Ballot Access News.


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