§ 163-96. “Political party” defined; creation of new party.
Overview of Statute
Section provides for the definition of political parties, including the procedure of filing a petition initiating the creation of political party filed with the State Board of Elections.
(a) Definition. — A political party within the meaning of the election laws of this State shall be one of the following:
(1) Any group of voters which, at the last preceding general State election, polled for its candidate for Governor, or for presidential electors, at least two percent (2%) of the entire vote cast in the State for Governor or for presidential electors.
(2) Any group of voters which shall have filed with the State Board of Elections petitions for the formulation of a new political party which are signed by registered and qualified voters in this State equal in number to one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent general election for Governor. Also the petition must be signed by at least 200 registered voters from each of three congressional districts in North Carolina. To be effective, the petitioners must file their petitions with the State Board of Elections before 12:00 noon on the first day of June preceding the day on which is to be held the first general State election in which the new political party desires to participate. The State Board of Elections shall forthwith determine the sufficiency of petitions filed with it and shall immediately communicate its determination to the State chair of the proposed new political party.
(3) Any group of voters which shall have filed with the State Board of Elections documentation that the group of voters had a candidate nominated by that group on the general election ballot of at least seventy percent (70%) of the states in the prior Presidential election. To be effective, the group must file their documentation with the State Board of Elections before 12:00 noon on the first day of June preceding the day on which is to be held the first general State election in which the new political party desires to participate. The State Board of Elections shall forthwith verify the documentation filed with it and shall immediately communicate its determination to the State chair of the proposed new political party.
(b) Petitions for New Political Party. — Petitions for the creation of a new political party shall contain on the heading of each page of the petition in bold print or all in capital letters the words:
“THE UNDERSIGNED REGISTERED VOTERS IN ________ COUNTY HEREBY PETITION FOR THE FORMATION OF A NEW POLITICAL PARTY TO BE NAMED ________ AND WHOSE STATE CHAIRMAN IS ____________, RESIDING AT ____________ AND WHO CAN BE REACHED BY TELEPHONE AT ________ ”
All printing required to appear on the heading of the petition shall be in type no smaller than 10 point or in all capital letters, double spaced typewriter size. In addition to the form of the petition, the organizers and petition circulators shall inform the signers of the general purpose and intent of the new party.
The petitions must specify the name selected for the proposed political party. The State Board of Elections shall reject petitions for the formation of a new party if the name chosen contains any word that appears in the name of any existing political party recognized in this State or if, in the State Board’s opinion, the name is so similar to that of an existing political party recognized in this State as to confuse or mislead the voters at an election.
The petitions must state the name and address of the State chairman of the proposed new political party.
(c) Each petition shall be presented to the chairman of the board of elections of the county in which the signatures were obtained, and it shall be the chairman’s duty:
(1) To examine the signatures on the petition and place a check mark on the petition by the name of each signer who is qualified and registered to vote in his county.
(2) To attach to the petition his signed certificate
a. Stating that the signatures on the petition have been checked against the registration records and
b. Indicating the number found qualified and registered to vote in his county.
(3) To return each petition, together with the certificate required by the preceding subdivision, to the person who presented it to him for checking.
The group of petitioners shall submit the petitions to the chairman of the county board of elections in the county in which the signatures were obtained no later than 5:00 P.M. on the fifteenth day preceding the date the petitions are due to be filed with the State Board of Elections as provided in subsection [subdivision] (a)(2) of this section. Provided the petitions are timely submitted, the chairman of the county board of elections shall proceed to examine and verify the signatures under the provisions of this subsection. Verification shall be completed within two weeks from the date such petitions are presented.
(1901, c. 89, s. 85; Rev., s. 4292; 1915, c. 101, s. 31; 1917, c. 218; C.S., ss. 5913, 6052; 1933, c. 165, ss. 1, 17; 1949, c. 671, ss. 1, 2; 1967, c. 775, s. 1; 1975, c. 179; 1979, c. 411, s. 3; 1981, c. 219, ss. 1-3; 1983, c. 576, ss. 1-3; 1997-456, s. 27; 1999-424, s. 5(a); 2004-127, s. 14; 2006-234, s. 1; 2017-6, s. 3; 2017-214, s. 1; 2018-146, s. 3.1(a), (b).)
1. Definition for Participate
Participate. – To take part in, influence, or attempt to influence, including
acting through an agent or proxy.
2. Definition for political party
The term “political party” means any political party organized or operating in this State, whether or not that party is recognized under the provisions of G.S. 163A-950. A special definition of “political party organization” that applies only in Part 2 of this Article is set forth in G.S. 163A-1475. An affiliated party committee is deemed a political party for this Article as set forth in G.S. 163A-1416 and G.S. 163A-1417.
3. Definition for day
The term “day” means calendar day.
4. Definition for board
The term “board” means the State Board with respect to all candidates for State, legislative, and judicial offices and the county board of elections with respect to all candidates for county and municipal offices. The term means the State Board with respect to all statewide referenda and the county board of elections conducting all local referenda.
5. Definition for Board
Board. – Any State board, commission, council, committee, task force,
authority, or similar public body, however denominated, created by statute or
executive order, as determined and designated by the State Board, except for
those public bodies that have only advisory authority.
6. Definition for State
“State” means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
7. Definition for person
The term “person” means any business entity, corporation, insurance company, labor union, or professional association.
8. Definition for Ballot
(Effective until January 1, 2018 or September 1, 2019 – see note) “Ballot” means an instrument on which a voter indicates that voter’s choice for a ballot item so that it may be recorded as a vote for or against a certain candidate or referendum proposal. The term “ballot” may include a paper ballot to be counted by hand, a paper ballot to be counted on an electronic
scanner, the face of a lever voting machine, the image on a direct record electronic unit, or a ballot used on any other voting system.
(Effective January 1, 2018 or September 1, 2019 – see note) “Ballot” means an instrument on which a voter indicates that voter’s choice for a ballot item so that it may be recorded as a vote for or against a certain candidate or referendum proposal, and is evidenced by an individual paper document that bears marks made by the voter by hand or through electronic
means, whether preprinted or printed in the voting enclosure.
9. Definition for election
The term “election” means any general or special election, a first or second primary, a run-off election, or an election to fill a vacancy. The term “election” shall not include any local or statewide referendum.
10. Definition for Election
“Election” means the event in which voters cast votes in ballot items concerning proposals or candidates for office in this State or the United States. The term includes primaries, general elections, referenda, and special elections.
11. Definition for candidate
The term “candidate” means any individual who, with respect to a public office listed in G.S. 163A-1411(80), has taken positive action for the purpose of bringing about that individual’s nomination, retention, or election to public office. Examples of positive action include any of the following:
a. Filing a notice of candidacy, filing a notice to be retained, or a petition requesting to be a candidate.
b. Being certified as a nominee of a political party for a vacancy.
c. Otherwise qualifying as a candidate in a manner authorized by law.
d. Making a public announcement of a definite intent to run for public office in a particular election.
e. Receiving funds or making payments or giving the consent for anyone else to receive funds or transfer anything of value for the purpose of bringing about that individual’s nomination or election to office. Transferring anything of value includes incurring an obligation to transfer anything of value. Status as a candidate for the purpose of this Article continues if the individual is receiving contributions to repay loans or cover a deficit or is making expenditures to satisfy obligations from an election already held. Special definitions of “candidate” and “candidate campaign committee” that apply only in Part 2 of this Article are set forth in G.S. 163A-1475.
12. Definition for Candidate
“Candidate” means any individual who, with respect to a public office listed in G.S. 163A-1411(80), has filed a notice of candidacy, notice of retention, or a petition requesting to be a candidate, or has been certified as a nominee of a political party for a vacancy, or has otherwise qualified as a candidate in a manner authorized by law, or has filed a statement of organization under G.S. 163A-1412 and is required to file periodic financial disclosure statements under G.S. 163A-1418.
North Carolina Cases
Case Name: Libertarian Party v. State
Citation: 707 S.E.2d 199
Case PDF: Libertarian Party v. State
Case Summary: The North Carolina supreme court held the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-96(a)(2) are not subject to strict scrutiny because they did not severely burden associational rights nor did the provisions violate due process, free speech, or equal protection, because they imposed a reasonable hurdle to ballot access as (1) signatories were not disqualified for voting in another party's primary; (2) they were more permissive than requirements upheld by the Court; and (3) they did not discriminate against minor parties or operate to freeze the political status quo of a two-party system. In conclusion, the State's interests in avoiding voter confusion, ballot overcrowding, and frivolous candidacies were sufficient to justify the two percent signature requirement for political party ballot access.
Case Name: Libertarian Party of North Carolina v. State (Appeals 2009)
Citation: 200 N.C.App. 323
Case PDF: Libertarian Party v. State (Appeal 09)
Case Summary: Although the State's ballot access scheme inevitably burdened the associational rights of members of small parties as well as the informational interests of all voters regardless of their party affiliation, it also found that associational rights were not absolute and were subject to qualification if elections were to be run fairly and effectively. Here the court held that the governing statutes were narrowly tailored to meet the state's compelling interests.
Case Name: McLaughlin v. North Carolina Bd. of Elections
Citation: 65 F.3d 1215
Federal Circuit Court: 4th Circuit Court
Case Summary: Libertarian Party members brought action against the state election officials and sought to have specific North Carolina statutes declared unconstitutional. The trial court deemed only some of the requested statutes (required payment of .05 cents per each notarization) unconstitutional, but deemed the remainder of challenges constitutional. Here the court held and affirmed, the state's interest in administrative simplicity outweighed the small burden that the provision imposed on the Party's interest. Namely, the court reasoned that ballot access restrictions must be analyzed as a whole, therefore the court ruled such ballot access rules did not unconstitutionally burden rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Case Name: New Alliance Party v. North Carolina State Bd. of Elections
Citation: 697 F.Supp. 904
Federal District Court: Eastern District of North Carolina
Case Summary: The state law, which entitled political parties to have names of their candidates to be printed on the ballot upon meeting a petition requirement, but does not entitle new parties' candidates to have its names printed unless it polled 10% in the last presidential or gubernatorial election, was a violation of the party members equal protection rights.
Case Name: Greaves v. State Bd. of Elections of North Carolina
Citation: 508 F.Supp. 78
Federal District Court: Eastern District of North Carolina
Case Summary: The state election statute which mandated an independent candidate for President to file a petition signed by voters amounting to 10% of those who voted for Governor in the last gubernatorial election was held as an unconstitutional infringement upon the plaintiff's rights to enjoy equal protection under law. Here the state asserted no rational basis nor any compelling interest, for implementing such disparate impact (independent candidates needed to produce 166,000 signatures while candidate of new political party need only supply 10,000 signatures) and therefore granted the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.
Case Name: Brown v. North Carolina State Bd. of Elections
Citation: 394 F.Supp. 359
Federal District Court: W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
Case PDF: Brown v. NC State Bd of Elections
Case Summary: Alternative means of access to the general election ballot, by means of running as an independent or third-party candidate or conducting a write-in campaign to obtain nomination, did not vitiate constitutional challenge to a North Carolina statute which restricted access to the primary election ballot through requiring payment of a filing fee.
Case Name: North Carolina Socialist Workers Party v. North Carolina State Bd. of Elections
Citation: 538 F.Supp. 864
Federal District Court: Eastern District of North Carolina
Case Summary: The injunction against enforcement of the statutory requirement against the State Socialist Workers Party was warranted by the balancing of hardships, and the likelihood of Party's success on the merits and public's interest in maintenance of First and Fourteenth Amendment values at issue. Here the balance of hardships favors the plaintiffs when read in conjunction with the plaintiffs probability of success, leaves the court little choice but to issue the requested relief. Therefore, the defendants are enjoined from enforcing against the plaintiffs the requirements of N.C. Gen. Statute §163-96(b).