by Brian Irving
North Carolina will continue its tradition of unopposed elections in 2016. Seventy-two General Assembly candidates were either "elected" at the close of filing Dec. 21 or will be elected in the March primary. So in November nearly half of North Carolina voters will have no choice about who represents them in Raleigh.
This is one of the reason I and six other Wake county Libertarians have decided to run for the General Assembly.
The typical reaction from political groups is to blame gerrymandering for this perversion of representative government. The News & Observer had several stories with that theme. While it's true gerrymandering is a cause, there's another more significant reason – highly restrictive ballot access laws. It's very difficult for a party – other than the Democrats or Republicans – to get on the ballot. It's nearly impossible for independent candidates to do so.
Political commentators and the mainstream media generally ignore this cause. Perhaps it's because they are invested in perpetuating the “two-party” system. North Carolina's highly restrictive ballot access laws effectively disenfranchise nearly a third of North Carolina voters, the unaffiliated, the fastest growing voter block. These barriers are more effective at voter suppression than any other method.
Most voters don't realize how the establishment parties manipulate the system through gerrymandering and restrictive ballot access. To qualify for the ballot a “new” party must collect in excess of 90,000 signatures. To run for statewide office without a party label you must hurdle the same barrier. Anyone who wants to challenge an unopposed incumbent in a legislative district or local office, needs to collect anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 signatures from registered voters.
It's not gerrymandering, voter IDs, or early voting limitations that disenfranchises NC voters. It's our ballot access lockout.