NC ballot to have more presidential candidates

RFK and Cornel West should be on the ballot this year


RALEIGH — This fall's presidential ballot in battleground North Carolina appears poised to lengthen after three political movements seeking to run candidates filed voter signature lists with state election officials by a Monday deadline.

Groups that want Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West on the ballot — the “We The People” party and Justice for All Party respectively — as well as the Constitution Party had initiated petition drives to receive official party designations. That would allow the groups to field candidates for any position in the November election, not just for president.

Based on state law, the proposed parties had to collect at least 13,865 valid signatures from registered and qualified voters and turn in enough signature sheets by noon Monday. Signature lists already had to be filed at county board of offices by May 17 to give officials there time to determine whether they were registered voters.

A petition webpage by the State Board of Elections indicates all three groups have valid signatures that exceed the threshold. Board officials still must review signatures and petition details to ensure compliance, however. The state board — composed of three Democrats and two Republicans — would have to meet soon to formally vote to recognize any or all of these groups as new political parties. New political parties would have to quickly offer their candidates for the ballot.

Adding presidential candidates further raise the stakes and uncertainty about who will win North Carolina’s 16 electoral votes. While Republican Donald Trump won the state in both 2016 and in 2020, his margin over Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 was less than 1.4 percentage points — the closest margin of any state Trump won that year.

The Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and No Labels parties already are officially recognized in North Carolina. But the largest bloc of voters in the state are now those registered unaffiliated — nearly 2.8 million voters out of the state's almost 7.5 million registrants.

Italo Medelius-Marsano, a co-chair of the state Justice for All Party of North Carolina, said the group's signature collection over three months speaks to the public's unhappiness with the major parties.

“This really is a testament of the will of the people of North Carolina to dethrone the two parties,” he said at a Raleigh news conference. “People are tired with having two parties controlling the public ballot.” Medelius-Marsano said he expects the state party will hold a convention soon to nominate West, and its leaders may consider candidates for down-ballot races.

Getting on the ballot as a candidate through a new political party in North Carolina is less daunting than doing so as an independent candidate. State law requires an independent candidate to collect at least 83,188 qualifying signatures, and they would have had to be turned in earlier.

West, a professor and progressive activist, announced earlier this year the creation of a national Justice for All Party to secure ballot access in specific states. “We the People” was created to help Kennedy, an author and environmental lawyer, run as a candidate in North Carolina and elsewhere.

As of late last week, Kennedy’s campaign said he was officially on the ballot in eight states and had collected signatures for ballot access in nine others. The West campaign said Monday it has currently qualified in seven states.

The Constitution Party has been an official party in North Carolina in the past, including for the 2020 elections. The national party this year nominated anti-abortion activist Randall Terry as its presidential candidate.

The state board recognized No Labels Party as an official North Carolina party last August. But in April the political movement said it would not field a presidential candidate.

Achieving party status in North Carolina means registered voters also can formally affiliate with a new party. As of last weekend, about 10,300 registered voters were affiliated with No Labels and about 2,200 with the Green Party.