The long, hard slog for the North Carolina Green Party is over. The state officially recognized the Green Party, allowing its candidates to appear on state ballots.

“It’s something we’ve been working for, it seems like, forever,” said J.J. Rizzo, co-chairman of the Triangle Chapter of the Green Party.

The nine-member Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement voted unanimously March 27 to approve the Green Party petition to be recognized. Minor parties historically have had trouble gaining access to election ballots due to restrictive laws that favored Republicans and Democrats.

The Libertarian Party has had ballot status in the state off and on since 1976. A law passed in 2007 reduced the threshold for gaining ballot access from receiving 10 percent of the vote for governor to 2 percent. Mike Munger got 3 percent of the vote in the 2008 gubernatorial election, giving Libertarians continuous ballot status.

Ballot access for minor parties eased further last year with passage of Senate Bill 656 — a law enacted over Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. The Electoral Freedom Act lowered many barriers.

A party now can get on North Carolina’s ballot if its presidential candidate qualifies for a general election ballot in at least 35 states. In 2016, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was on the ballot in 38 states.

A party also can reach the ballot by collecting petition signatures equal to 0.25 percent of the total votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. The threshold had been 2 percent. The petitions must include 200 signatures from at least three congressional districts rather than four, the previous standard.

“We’re very happy today,” said Tommie James, secretary of the state Green Party. “We’re trying to get clarification right now on just how long it will take for us to start registering people as Greens.”

James said the political landscape no longer will be the same in North Carolina.

“I think we will have more choices,” James said. And it should expand a debate that’s been dominated by Republicans and Democrats on important statewide issues. “They’ve been too narrowly defined by the two parties.”

Lack of ballot access has made it more challenging to run candidates.

“Now with ballot access we can move forward,” James said.

“We don’t have any declared candidates at the moment,” she said, but the party has established an endorsement process as it prepared to gain state recognition.

The state party immediately began contacting leaders of its five local chapters after the vote.

“We’re going to be busy planning for our future,” James said.

Republicans posted a congratulatory email, with a political barb, while the Elections Board was still meeting.

The North Carolina Republican Party welcomes the Green Party to North Carolina. Unlike Governor Cooper, who vetoed [S.B. 656], Republicans are not scared of electoral competition,” Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Michele Nix said.

“We look forward to competing with the Green Party in the marketplace of ideas. I am proud of our Republicans in the General Assembly for providing the opportunity for more candidates and political parties to compete for votes in North Carolina,” Nix said.

A request for comment sent to several Democratic Party officials had received no response by press time.