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Third parties, unaffiliated voters deserve voice

Voting Records North Carolina

Voters line up under the morning sun for early voting at a center in Raleigh in 2016.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

While North Carolina has become more accommodating to those outside the two-party paradigm, with the recent recognition of the Green and Constitution parties, third-party and unaffiliated voters are still getting the shaft.

The Carolina Journal reports that county boards of elections in the Tar Heel State cannot accept nominations from the aforementioned parties or the Libertarian Party. Libertarians tried, according to the Journal, but were told it was illegal.

Turns out, while lawmakers were making clarifications to the state’s general statutes and session laws in 2018, they also conveniently — and specifically — designated that members of county elections boards shall “belong to the two political parties having the highest number of registered affiliates as reflected by the latest registration statistics” published by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

That means only Republicans and Democrats are allowed to be on the county boards, since most voters are registered with those two parties.

Well, that’s not entirely correct.

Registration numbers with the state board show that unaffiliated voters outnumber registered Republicans by more than 100,000.

Some counties have a similar or reversed ratio, while others have a smaller number of unaffiliated voters than those from the two major parties.

Ten of North Carolina’s 100 counties — Camden, Currituck, Dare, Henderson, Jackson, New Hanover, Onslow, Polk, Transylvania and Watauga — actually have more voters registered as unaffiliated than with either of the major parties.

Susan Hogarth, N.C. Libertarian Party chair, told the Carolina Journal that third parties and unaffiliated voters should be allowed to participate in government the same as members of the Republican and Democratic parties.

“Parties were not part of the government, they were part of politics,” Hogarth said. “Now parties are baked into the system.”

The state board chooses four of the five members, two from each party. The fifth is appointed by the governor.

With Gov. Roy Cooper being a Democrat, want to make bets on how the balance on county boards will be?

Of course, if the state had a Republican governor, the balance would be switched.

“Libertarians still hold that this law unfairly discriminates against alternative parties, and especially unaffiliated voters, who represent nearly one-third of voters,” Brian Irving, the press secretary of the Libertarian Party of Wake County, said in a news release.

We agree with Hogarth and Irving that the state’s county boards, as well as the state board itself (which is currently composed of three Democrats and two Republicans), should more accurately represent the voters in the Tar Heel State.

We urge the legislators of the General Assembly to change the law — again.

We will concede to having the state board pick two members from the Republican and Democratic parties. However, we assert that the appointment made by the governor should be a member of one of the state’s recognized third parties or be unaffiliated.

While it’s not the fairest option based on statistics, we believe it to be a more representative compromise.

Richmond Observer

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