The North Carolina Green Party had its petition to be recognized as an official party in state elections denied, in a 3-2 party-line vote, at the N.C. State Board of Elections on June 30. But the NCGP is crying foul, alleging the Elias Law Group — a powerful firm used by national Democrats, which was also successful in getting North Carolina’s election maps thrown out — used lying, bullying, and harassment to influence the decision.

The NCSBE said in a June 30 statement that it rejected the Green Party’s certification due to an “ongoing investigation into evidence of fraud and other irregularities in the petition process used to seek ballot access for the party.”

These allegations were submitted to the board by Jacquelyn Lopez of the Elias Law Group on behalf of the N.C. Democratic Party’s deputy get-out-the-vote director, Michael Abucewicz. The accusations — which include that the Green Party misrepresented itself to get some to sign and that they turned in fraudulent sheets of signatures — can be read here.

But Matthew Hoh, the Green Party’s U.S. Senate candidate — who will now be unable to get on the ballot with Republican Ted Budd, Democrat Cheri Beasley, and Libertarian Shannon Bray — said the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Elias Law Group, and the N.C. Democratic Party were less concerned with exposing fraud than keeping Hoh off the ballot to protect Beasley’s vote share. And they used dishonest tactics to get the job done, Hoh said.

“We needed 13,865 verified signatures; we turned in 22,500 signatures,” Hoh told Carolina Journal. “Of that 22,500, about 16,000 were verified by the county boards of election. … We were about 2,100 over what we needed to get on the ballot.”

But soon after these signatures were submitted, the Elias Law Group was able to get the names and addresses of those who signed through a public-records request. These Green Party supporters were then repeatedly called, texted, and visited at home by Democrat operatives and asked to sign forms to renounce their earlier signature of the petition.

“If they [the signers] want to take their names off, it’s fine, of course,” Hoh said. “Again [it’s] the idea that people are being deliberately lied to in a very calculated way to get them to remove their names.”

Hoh said the petition forms only have name, address, birth date, and signature, so he believes Democrats got people’s phone numbers by cross referencing with other information in Democratic Party databases. Many of the callers identified themselves as with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But according to some of those called, the callers identified themselves as working with, not against, the Green Party.

A recording of one of those calls, provided by Hoh, can be heard below. The person asks three times if the caller is really with the Green Party, and each time he is told that the caller is. Then the caller reads the same script that the DSCC callers have used, asking if they will remove their name from the ballot so they don’t help Republicans. 

Carolina Journal interviewed another Green Party supporter, Janet Nagel of Greensboro, who said she also received misleading, harassing calls.

Nagel said an automatic dialer called several times, which she ignored because of the long pause before anyone spoke. But when she finally waited to see what the caller wanted, it was a woman who represented herself as with the Green Party.

“It seemed illogical,” Nagel said of a Green Party representative encouraging her to remove her support from the organization. “Why would she be telling me that? So I told her that it was not a correct assessment [that supporting NCGP means helping the Republicans], because people who would be voting for the Greens were not going to be voting for the Democrats. Then, as a non sequitur, and this was the part that really concerned me, she said, ‘So would you want to remove your name from the petition?'”

Nagel, a senior citizen, said she then told the caller that they “should be ashamed of themselves for making these phone calls,” and the person hung up.

In a June 28 statement on his website, Hoh said, “Sadly, these were not isolated incidents. The Matthew Hoh campaign and North Carolina Green Party (NCGP) have received numerous reports [of] calls and in-person visits to voters who signed the Green’s petition by individuals misrepresenting themselves as associated with the NCGP, and who pressured those voters to disavow their signatures.”

Hoh told CJ that the NCSBE is aware of these calls and that NCGP is “giving them information and working with them as we can to help them investigate what we believe is harassment and bullying, but also quite possibly illegal.”

Hoh said the people were being told other incorrect information as well, like that if they remove their names, it won’t negatively affect the Green Party since the party has already been certified.

“They’re calling people five times a day,” Hoh said. “Actually, one person just told us that his wife yesterday was called four times in three and a half hours by them. There’s all kinds of levels on this. There’s the harassment; there’s the misrepresentation; and then there is the bullying or the shaming.”

They even reached out to Hoh himself. The texts were more focused on the negative impact the Green Party might have on the Democrats than on identifying any victims of potential fraud.

For those texted, they were directed toward a DocuSign link where they could request to have their name officially removed. Hoh said this strategy has been used successfully in other states — like in Montana, where Democrats successfully removed enough signatures from the Green Party’s petition in 2020 to block them from the ballot.

When the Democratic operatives did not have a person’s phone number, they sometimes showed up in person to the addresses listed next to the signature. Below is a video of one such home visit. The operative identifies herself as being with the N.C. Democratic Party in this case, not the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Hoh said that he received reports from supporters that even after they told the Democratic operatives that they do not wish to remove their name from the petition, they received additional visits at their homes.

But all these efforts to convince people to renounce their signature did not produce much fruit. NCSBE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said during the June 30 meeting that only 145 people contacted the board to have their names removed. This was far lower than the 2,100 that Democrats needed to block the Green Party.

Carolina Journal reached out to the DSCC for comment on the tactics, but has not heard back. In reply to questions from the News & Observer, though, DSCC spokesperson Amanda Sherman Baity described the motivation behind the outreach, saying, “Since the North Carolina Green Party hired a petition-gathering firm with a documented record of committing fraud, we’re reaching out to voters to ensure they have not been deceived.”

Hoh said this is completely disingenuous. He said the firm in question, First Choice Contracting, was only employed for a month by the Green Party in January, and the party fired the firm because it collected only 100 signatures, 50 of which were usable. He said these were not even among the final verified 15,953 turned in for certification.

During the June 30 meeting, there was also concern expressed about other signature gatherers. Hoh said that the board highlighted two individuals hired from Lee Evans Consulting Firm in Arkansas, but he said these were also not among the signatures accepted by the county boards. But the board ultimately decided that between the Lee Evans Consulting Firm, First Choice Contracting, the 145 who reached out to have their names removed, and other concerns, it all added up.

“In their individual situation, it might not raise a question, but when you look at these cumulatively, we feel like there is a cloud over how many signatures are valid,” Brinson Bell said. “Do we need to go back to the county boards of election to question that? Do we need to have conversations with these signature gatherers? There’s just a lot of concern about what we’re finding and the amount of irregularities and possible fraud that has been identified already within the signature pages that we have received.”

Initially, the board had been willing to consider tabling the motion of whether to certify the party, but it became clear that this would have been pointless, because there was a statutory deadline of July 1 for the party to submit its candidates.

The board’s lawyer suggested the Green Party might be able to get a court to approve its candidates past the July 1 deadline, but the NCSBE board could not budge on that date.

Tommy Tucker, one of two Republicans on the board, questioned why these signatures are being so carefully looked at when “nary a signature, meaning not one,” was checked during the 2020 elections.

Before the vote, the Green Party attorney, Oliver Hall, jumped in to ask the the chair, “Is there any question as to the validity of the 15,953 signatures that have been validated by county boards of elections?”

The chair, Democrat Damon Circosta, said, “Sir, I don’t want to get into the details of a criminal investigation, but I have question sufficient in number to not be willing to vote for certification today.”

Hall responded by saying that the board was rejecting the Green Party’s certification because of a presumption against the signatures, but “if there is some presumption here that is operative, the presumption ought to be that validated signatures are valid unless there is some basis for considering them invalid or at least subject to investigation.”

When Circosta said that he was standing by his earlier statement, Hall said that he had not answered the question. But Circosta cut him off and said, “Mr. Hall, you are out of order. Go ahead and mute Mr. Hall.”

Then Tucker made a motion to certify the Green Party, as he was not comfortable presuming the signatures validated by the county boards were invalid. He and fellow Republican Stacy “Four” Eggers voted to certify, while Democrats Circosta, Stella Anderson, and Jeff Carmon voted against.

Hoh told Carolina Journal before the vote that if Democrats’ efforts were successful, “We are prepared to do everything we need to do to get the ballot access that we achieved, and that includes any degree of legal action necessary.”

He said Greens represent constituencies and issues that would not otherwise be on the ballot, so he doesn’t see the Green Party as potential spoilers. 

“We represent single-payer health care. We represent affordable housing. We represent living wages, action on the climate, etc, etc. And those things aren’t represented by the Beasley campaign at all. They claim to be for working-class people, but you and I know, the Democratic Party, it’s been decades since they’ve addressed the needs of working class people.”