The state Senate passed a bill (SB 656) yesterday to lower the signature requirement for a new political party to qualify for the ballot to a flat 10,000 signatures. This is a step forward for free, fair, and open elections in North Carolina. A similar bill with the same name, HB 769, never received a hearing in the House elections committee.
It didn't appear either bill would go anywhere. The Senate bill has only one Republican sponsor while the House bill has several Republican and Democrat sponsors. I wasn't paying attention to SB65 and completely missed how quickly it progressed through the Senate.
What this means is that the possibility of achieving real ballot access reform is still alive in this General Assembly session.
The major point in SB 656 is to change the definition of political party in G.S. 163-96(a). The bill:
1. Makes no change to the requirement a new party get two percent of the vote for governor or president to stay on the ballot. (GS 163-96(a)(1))
2. Lowers signature requirement for a new party to qualify for the ballot to a flat 10,000 signatures. (GS 163-96(a)(2))
3. Lowers signature requirement for an Unaffiliated candidate to have their name printed on the ballot for a statewide office to a flat 5,000 signatures. (GS 163-122(a))
4. Signatures must be collected in three, rather than four Congressional districts.
5. Lowers signature requirement for unaffiliated candidates running for district offices (General Assembly, Congress, etc.) and local offices from four to three percent of the qualified voters in the district. Another bill recently passed, that made all judicial races partisan, also lowered the signature requirements for unaffiliated candidates in these races, but that chance was from four to two pecent.
6. Changes how the winner of primary elections with multiple candidates is determined by lowering the definition of “substantial plurality” from 40 to 30 percent of the total vote. (GS 163-111(a))