RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina voters will likely have a new choice at the polls this November, as a group with an unconventional approach to the electoral process delivered more than 86,000 certified petition signatures to the N.C. State Board of Elections on Wednesday.
Americans Elect is a nonpartisan group working to get its as-yet-unnamed presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states this year, motivated largely by the conviction that voters are looking for an alternative to the two major parties that have dominated American politics since the middle of the 19th century.
“There’s no particular program — it’s more about the process itself,” said Luke Shuffield, the group’s organizer on the Duke University campus.
In June, the group plans to hold an online primary to decide its presidential candidate. If the elections board signs off on the signatures collected by the group — which already have been certified by county elections officials — North Carolina would become the 22nd state giving Americans Elect a space on the ballot, Shuffield said.
“If you’re affiliated with the left, the right or the center, I don’t think you could find much wrong with opening up the process,” he said.
The state board will notify Americans Elect about its ballot status within a week or so, according to Don Wright, general counsel for the agency.
Ballot access for smaller parties has been a contentious issue in North Carolina, which requires petition signatures that equal 2 percent of the total number of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election. Parties also have to obtain at least 200 signatures from at least four congressional districts in the state.
This year, that meant Americans Elect needed to obtain 85,379 valid signatures to get a candidate on the ballot. The group collected more than 120,000, which were turned over to county officials for certification, resulting in the final tally of just over 86,000 delivered Wednesday.
“We’re among the hardest states for third parties to be able to field candidates and then remain on the ballot,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan group that promotes voting rights.
A bill in the General Assembly last year that would have reduced the requirement to 10,000 signatures passed the House of Representatives but died in the Senate.
“Republicans and Democrats both don’t look kindly on changing rules that open up the process to potential opponents,” Hall said.
Last year, the state Supreme Court rebuffed a legal challenge to North Carolina’s ballot-access procedures, ruling that the regulations don’t unfairly burden smaller parties and help voters by allowing for orderly elections.
Credit: The Associated Press.