Greens, N.C. elections board deadlock on resolving federal suit

Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Matthew Hoh

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  • The Green Party and N.C. State Board of Elections have not reached a deal on resolving the Greens' federal lawsuit against the board.
  • Greens have submitted their own proposal for ensuring their candidates, including U.S. Senate nominee Matthew Hoh, appear on North Carolina's November ballot.

Documents filed Wednesday afternoon in federal court show that the Green Party and N.C. State Board of Elections have failed to reach an agreement for ending the Greens’ federal lawsuit against the board.

The major sticking point involves a disagreement over whether U.S. District Judge James Dever has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Dever issued an order Monday urging the two sides to submit a mutually acceptable plan by 5 p.m. Wednesday to end the federal suit. Dever’s request followed the state elections board’s decision Monday to reverse an earlier ruling and certify the Green Party for the November election.

That decision appeared to resolve much of the federal legal dispute. The main unresolved issue involved setting aside the board’s July 1 deadline for submitting Green Party candidate names for the November ballot.

“Plaintiffs respectfully notify the Court that Plaintiffs and Defendants have conferred, [through] counsel, and have worked cooperatively to agree upon the terms of a proposed consent order,” wrote attorney Oliver Hall of the Center for Competitive Democracy, representing the Green Party. “Despite their cooperative efforts, Plaintiffs and Defendants are unable to agree on the terms of a consent order.”

A joint status report posted just before 5 p.m. offered more detail about the remaining disagreement.

“The State Board does not consent to jurisdiction,” that report explained. “The State Board opposes any order that concludes that this federal court has jurisdiction over this purely state law claim.”

Both sides submitted proposed orders for Dever’s review.

The Greens’ order calls for Dever to block the elections board from applying the July 1 deadline to two Green Party candidates. Matthew Hoh would represent Greens in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, while Michael Trudeau would pursue a state Senate seat. Each would be required to complete the necessary paperwork and pay filing fees by Aug. 12.

Dever would order the elections board to include both names on the November ballot if the candidates meet the Aug. 12 deadline.

“The Court retains jurisdiction over all claims asserted by Plaintiffs to grant such further and additional relief as the Court deems appropriate, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs,” according to the Greens’ proposed order.

The N.C. State Board of Elections’ order also would allow Hoh and Trudeau to comply with filing requirements by Aug. 12.

Had the two groups reached a deal, Dever could have canceled an Aug. 8 hearing in the case. That’s still possible. The status report indicated that both the Greens and the state elections board would agree to drop the hearing if Dever decides he has jurisdiction and needs no further input from the parties.

As the federal lawsuit reaches a possible resolution, the Green Party’s participation in the November election faces a challenge in state court from the N.C. Democratic Party. Democrats, working with the Elias Law Group, hope to overturn the elections board’s decision to certify the Green Party. Democratic critics question the legality of petition signatures Greens submitted in the party certification process.

Democratic interests working with Elias have filed paperwork to intervene in the federal case as well. Dever has not acted on that request.

The Green Party explains in the joint status report how Dever’s jurisdiction in the case could affect the lawsuit in state court.

“Should a state court enter an order granting the North Carolina Democratic Party the relief it requests, such an order would render any relief this Court may grant … insufficient to ensure the inclusion of NCGP’s candidates on North Carolina’s November 8, 2022, general election ballot. Plaintiffs therefore request that this Court retain jurisdiction over this matter to enforce the terms of any order it may enter, and to grant such further and additional relief that the Court deems appropriate.”

There is no indication of when Dever might issue a ruling.

Editor’s note: This developing story was updated at 5:20 p.m. to include information from the latest court filings.