With a polarizing President in the White House and gerrymandered districts in the courthouse, disillusionment with the two-party system in American politics seems to be at an all time high. A recently passed North Carolina law will make it easier for third parties to get on the ballot this year – but only if a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats in Raleigh gets resolved.
Democrats, Libertarians Republicans. Currently, those are the only choices available to North Carolina voters in partisan elections. For smaller parties, collecting signatures to gain ballot access in North Carolina had always been an arduous task, according to co-chair of the Western North Carolina chapter of the N.C. Green Party Camille McCarthy. But that was before the passage of Senate Bill 656 last fall. “Prior to that, it was the most restrictive ballot access law in the country, requiring 98,000 signatures, or 2 percent of the registered voters in the last election", says McCarthy.
Now, that requirement is just a quarter of one percent, or about 11,000 signatures, which has McCarthy and the WNC Greens out at poling places and community events, pens and clipboards in hand. But the effort isn’t limited to left-leaning groups. At a gun show in Fletcher, volunteers including Haywood County resident Eddie Cabe collected signatures for The Constitution Party. “We’re here today gathering signatures to get the constitution party on the ballot in North Carolina. I believe the more good people we have running for office the better we’ll have", says Cabe.
Cabe is a great example of the disappointment many now feel with mainstream parties - “I’ve been a Republican all my life. I’m 58 years old. I registered to vote Republican when I was in the Air Force. First person I ever voted for was Ronald Reagan. The Republican Party has just abandoned the people. They’ve turned into part of the swamp.”
Any registered N.C. voter can sign the petition, which won’t put you on a mailing list, and won’t change your existing political affiliation. But the Constitution Party and the Greens may be out of luck for 2018 even if they meet the deadline of June 1 to submit their signatures; a dispute between Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the new State Board of Elections means there’s no one there to receive them.