The North Carolina State Election Board “kicked the can down the road” at their board meeting Tuesday on allowing the Justice For All Party and We The People Party to appear on the ballot in November’s general election while greenlighting the Constitution Party.

Democratic Board chair Alan Hirsch said the board did not receive all of the information necessary to decide today on the two parties and suggested the board hold a meeting at a time to be announced.

The Constitution Party did comply with a question raised at the board’s June 26 meeting about the residency of its board chair by supplementing additional emails or correspondence to address the issue according to election officials.

The party submitted candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, but it also nominated three other candidates who didn’t want to reveal their names for political reasons until the party was certified.

General Counsel Paul Cox said that since a different body of law governs presidential and vice-presidential candidates, so not having presidential candidates from the party at this point is okay, but they would need to have the names by mid-August for ballot preparation purposes.

He also mentioned that while there’s a statutory threshold for signatures that has to be met, and that is presumptively valid, no case law would call into question the number of signatures required to be met to be recognized in North Carolina for ballot access.

Republican Board member Kevin Lewis asked Cox if the same statute that sets the number of signatures required also sets forth the requirements for the petition’s content, to which Cox replied yes.  

Cox would later add that a certain number of signatures is what the courts have routinely recognized as a valid sort of hurdle to getting on the ballot because that is justified by the state’s interest in making sure that only candidates that have the actual backing of what they call a “modicum of support within the electorate” is able to access the ballot and would go hand in hand with the signatures because it goes to demonstrate that the people supporting the petition actually support that parties existence.

The board voted unanimously to allow the Constitution Party to appear on the ballot.

Afterward, there was a discussion about when the party should submit the rest of its candidates. Hirsch asked Republican Board Member Stacey “Four” Eggers, who had some concerns earlier in the meeting, if it would be satisfactory to just have staff urge the Constitution Party to present all their names promptly, and if they don’t, the board can follow up.

Eggers said it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave the deadline open-ended and that county board of elections directors were probably on the call looking for clear guidance so they could finalize their ballots.

Other board members agreed with Eggers and passed a motion to have the party respond two weeks from today, July 23, with a list of its candidates.

Hirsch next addressed the Justice For All Party and the We The People Party’s request to be included on November’s ballot.

He said that based on questions raised at the last meeting, staff attempted to contact signers of the petitions who signed affidavits that were submitted to the board asking that their names be removed from the petition and to ask what the petition gatherers informed the signers about the purpose and intent of the party. Additionally, the chair authorized subpoenas to nine different party organizations that were involved in the campaign, the petition gathering for the two political parties, the presidential candidates associated with the political parties, and some contract or outside entities that were gathering signatures either under contract with the party or not.

Hirsch said they only received three or four responses before today’s deadline.

Of those who asked to be removed from the petitions, the staff could not reach 17 out of 26 for the We The People Party and 44 out of 66 for the Justice For All Party.

They also spoke with 12 individuals who signed the petitions for those alleged to have signed the Justice For All Party petitions, who said they either did not sign or do not recall signing the petitions. They also interviewed nine individuals who signed the petitions for We The People and ten individuals who signed the petitions for Justice For All about their understanding of the purpose and intent of the party, and a number of those they spoke with said they were not told the purpose and intent or did not understand the purpose and intent in terms of what it was.

“I still think that we generally do not second guess voters on their decisions and should not do so in this case,” Eggers said. “Plus, the understanding from staff is that both of these parties are still well above the necessary signature thresholds set by statute is that correct?”  No response was recorded.

“We’re going to go ahead and approve the Constitution Party but only gonna have updates on the other two, and we’re talking about nine or ten that didn’t remember or 12 when the number of signatures is well above the statutory requirement,” Lewis added. “It’s not making a lot of sense to me. I think you’re bringing a lot of bad publicity on the board. Your motives are starting to be questioned.”

He said he has received more emails since the last meeting, including from people supporting the two parties, and is disappointed in how the board is dragging its feet on the issue. He hoped his fellow board members would do the right thing and approve the parties today.

Hirsch said they haven’t been able to review material that came in with the subpoenas, but as the chair, he has the authority to set a meeting and will do so in “plenty of time” to get the parties on the ballot if they are approved.

“In the meantime, I suppose their remedy if they don’t wish to wait for us is to follow the route of the Green Party and go to federal court,” Eggers said.

Hirsch replied that they could, to which Lewis said he would be surprised if they haven’t already done that. Hirsch responded that they haven’t turned them down yet, to which Lewis said, “Yes, we have, and I take issue with that.”

Lewis said that both he and Eggers made a motion at the last meeting, but the majority of the board voted them down. Hirsch said it was for now.

“Well, I read the letters that came in from the Democrat party objecting to it if that’s what you’re referring to,” Lewis asked Hirsch. “I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but thank you,” Hirsch replied. “I’m happy to talk about that offline, but I don’t understand what you’re referring to, but that’s all right.”

Hirsch said there were too many moving pieces today to set a date for the next meeting, but they will do so after they get more results. He also noted that one of the petition gatherers is the subject of a criminal investigation.  

Eggers said he doesn’t want the board to go on any fishing expeditions that aren’t necessary.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, was also unhappy with the NCSBE’s inaction on the two parties.

“Democratic partisans on the State Board of Elections have ignored clear state law and refused to certify third parties that pose a threat to Joe Biden in November,” Moore said in a press release. “This is election interference at its worst, and I anticipate the House Oversight and Reform Committee will examine the board’s decisions at their July 23 hearing.”