US House committees demand answers on NCSBE’s third-party ballot rejection

Image of Jan. 15, 2024, Robert F. Kennedy Jr rally in Raleigh by Brayden Marsh for CJ.

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  • The committees have the jurisdiction to conduct oversight of presidential and federal elections generally and to conduct oversight of matters concerning civil liberties, according to the chairs.

Two US House committees are seeking answers from the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ (NCSBE) decision to push off further consideration of third-party candidates for the ballot in November’s general election.

A letter cosigned by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wisconsin, states the June 26 action by NCSBE to “deny petitions filed by the political parties representing presidential candidates who otherwise have met the qualifications to appear on the November ballot in North Carolina was politically motivated and may have been done to influence the 2024 presidential election.”

The We the People Party, Justice For All Party, and Constitution Party of North Carolina have been working to achieve ballot access in North Carolina by obtaining over 13,865 signatures of support, each, well over the required number of petition signatures as required by law to qualify. While each party presented well over the required number of signatures, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted against certifying each party during the meeting, citing the potential for fraudulent signatures.

As previously reported by Carolina Journal, the NCSBE has raised questions about the validity of certain signature sets.

The We the People Party is working to place Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot this November, and the Justice For All Party aims to secure ballot access for Cornel West.

“Several political parties timely filed petitions with the NCSBE to allow each party’s respective candidate to appear on the November ballot in North Carolina,” the letter states. “However, the NCSBE denied these petitions by a party-line vote; the Board’s three Democrat members voted to reject the petitions. Because the deadline to appear on the ballot is rapidly approaching, the NCSBE’s decision, if not reversed, means that these three candidates will be left off of the November ballot.”

Jordan and Steil say the justifications put forth by the NCSBE’s Democrat majority to deny these petitions underscore its political motivations to influence the election.

They say, for example, in its denial of one petition, the Democrat members voted to block the petition simply because the address of the party’s chairman was not up to date on the petition sheets.

“More concerning, it appears that the NCSBE succumbed to the demands of Democrat organizations who repeatedly pressured the NCSBE to deny these petitions,” they said.

During the meeting, the board reviewed a video in which a petition circulator claimed the Justice For All petition would take votes away from Joe Biden, which is not part of the party’s stated purpose. The Justice For All Party’s representative, Italo Medelius, clarified that the party had no intention of helping Republicans win and could not control the circulator’s statements. 

For the We the People Party, Board members raised concerns about the new party and whether it should have followed the unaffiliated process.

They inquired about the script used when obtaining signatures and asked for an explanation of the party’s distinctive purpose. Confusion came, they said, from one line saying they aim to get Kennedy on the ballot, and another line stating they’re starting a new party.

Board Chair Alan Hirsch said they need to further investigate to determine whether the parties meet the statutory criteria, particularly the purpose and intent of the petitions. Another meeting will be called to address allegations of fraud and potential misrepresentation.

“No, for now,” Hirsch told the We the People Party. “Understand, we will only act where there’s evidence.”

Referring to the Green Party’s similar situation two years ago in which a judge put the party back on the ballot after the July 1 deadline, he said he felt comfortable delaying certification based on precedent.

Paul Cox, General Counsel for NCSBE, told Carolina Journal in an emailed statement that the board received the letter from the chairs of the House Judiciary and Administration committees yesterday afternoon and will provide the committees requested documents.

“As you probably are aware, a misunderstanding in the letter is that the State Board made a decision to reject the petitions,” Cox said. “The Board majority instead elected to review these petitions further to decide at a later date this month whether the prospective new parties met the requirements of state law to be officially recognized. No final decision has been reached on the Constitution Party, the Justice for All Party, or the We the People Party.”

Both Jordan and Steil say their committees have the jurisdiction to conduct oversight of presidential and federal elections generally and to conduct oversight of matters concerning “civil liberties” to inform potential legislative reforms, respectively.

Both committees are requesting the following information and documents from the NCSBE:

  • All documents and communications referring or relating to the NCSBE’s decision to bar certain candidates from the November ballot.
  • All documents and communications referring or relating to the quality of the petitions filed by third-party organizations to appear on the ballot.
  • All documents and communications between the NCSBE and third-party organizations concerning the NCSBE’s decision to deny the petitions.
  • All information and documents must be sent in by 5 pm on July 8.

Brianna Kraemer contributed to this article.