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North Carolina certifies the Green Party, which could allow it onto the Senate ballot

In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, a worker prepares absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C.
Gerry Broome
/
AP
In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, a worker prepares absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C.

Updated August 1, 2022 at 8:56 PM ET

The North Carolina Board of Elections voted Monday to certify the Green Party as a political party in the state — a decision that could allow the party's U.S. Senate candidate to be on the November ballot in one of the nation's most competitive races.

If a federal judge rules next week that Matthew Hoh can be on the ballot, it could complicate the election for Democratic former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, who is in a close contest against Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd.

In the past, many Democrats have blamed Green Party presidential candidates for siphoning votes from Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 as they lost the presidency. The North Carolina race could determine which party controls the Senate.

Fraudulent signatures

National Democrats have questioned the validity of the Green Party's signatures on a petition drive needed to get a spot on the state ballot.

The Elias Law Group, which represents the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, supported the efforts of a former state Democratic Party operative who challenged the Green Party petition. On Friday, Elias Law Group attorney Jacquelyn Lopez wrote the Board of Elections and urged it not to recognize the Greens.

Lopez wrote there was "widespread fraud" with the Green Party petition and that the state shouldn't give the party the "benefit of the doubt."

The Board of Elections on June 30 voted 3-2 against certifying the Greens. The vote was along party lines, with the board's three Democrats voting against certification and the two Republicans voting yes.

The board's executive director — Karen Brinson Bell, who was appointed by the state's Democratic governor — said she was concerned that the Green Party's signatures were fraudulent. She said the state needed more time to investigate, even though that would mean the Greens would miss a July 1 deadline to declare their candidates for the fall.

The party-line vote led the Green Party to cry foul, saying Democrats were working to protect Beasley.

The Board of Elections said Monday that local county elections boards had reviewed more signatures and that its own staff had also investigated. The board said it found an additional 481 signatures that were likely not valid, either because the signatures didn't match or because they were submitted after the deadline. (Hoh has acknowledged the party used a contractor that turned in what he estimated were roughly 200 false signatures.)

But the state said the Green Party still had more than 1,600 valid signatures above the minimum requirement of 13,865.

The board then voted to recognize the Green Party.

"Never a political decision"

But the state's investigation caused the Greens to miss that July 1 deadline. A federal judge will decide on Aug. 8 whether the state can let the Green Party on the ballot.

The Board of Elections said Monday that it can logistically place the Greens on the ballot.

Board of Elections Chair Damon Circosta, a Democrat, said the board "spent a lot of time to get it right. It was never a political decision."

Hoh, the Green Party Senate candidate, said he expects Democrats to challenge whether he can compete in November.

"We expect that will continue," he said. "We will have to fight against frivolous allegations without any substance for the remainder of this campaign, That's their campaign. That's what they do."

Indeed on Monday the state Democratic Party criticized the board's decision and announced it will file a lawsuit "to protect the integrity of the North Carolina political process."

There is also a Libertarian in the race, Shannon Bray.

Copyright 2022 WFAE

Steve Harrison is a reporter and host at WFAE, covering politics and government. In addition to his on-air stories, Steve hosts theInside Politicspodcast and writes itsweekly newsletter.