Good morning and thank you for coming out today. I’d like to start off by giving a brief description of our organization and then discuss what we came here for today.
Acclaimed political scientist Giovanni Sartori, author of The Theory of Democracy Revisited, once said that “voting without free choice cannot result in representative government” and we here today believe that Sartori was right. As a result of North Carolina’s ballot access laws the State has denied its citizens truly representative government for nearly the last two decades with some of the nation’s most onerous ballot access laws. It is for this cause that Free the Vote North Carolina was formed in June of 2008, to extend free choice and preserve democratic government. Free the Vote North Carolina is a non-partisan political action committee dedicated to protecting freedom of speech, association and the right to vote of every North Carolinian through education, research and legislative advocacy.
Our goal is to ensure North Carolina gives the people of this state an equal and fair chance to be represented at the polls by promoting electoral reforms that will provide equal access to the election ballot to all political parties and unaffiliated candidates and to end voter discrimination based on their political affiliation, an act which North Carolina has been guilty of in varying degrees for over a century.
North Carolina has the second most restrictive ballot access laws in the entire nation, and this scheme of ballot access laws are deliberately intended to impede competition to the two major parties by placing unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on any potential electoral competitors through restrictive signature requirements unparalleled in most other states.
For instance, for a new political party to obtain access to the election ballot in North Carolina, that party must collect in excess of 85,000 signatures from registered voters, based on a legal requirement of two percent of the vote in the last gubernatorial election. Only one other state in the nation requires a higher number of signatures for ballot access for political parties, that state being the largest in the Union, California.
Today we gather here to begin a set of positive changes in North Carolina’s ballot access laws. To accomplish this goal, I am proud to announce the formation of the Free the Vote Coalition, a truly non-partisan alliance of alternative political parties and public policy groups joined together in the common cause of the right to vote. As our central purpose, these groups have joined together to work for passage of the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 to restore the right of every citizen to vote for the candidate of their choice, a right currently denied by the state’s exploitative, unequal and free speech stifling laws that keep most alternative political parties and unaffiliated candidates off the election ballot.
Currently members of the Coalition in addition to Free the Vote North Carolina are:
The Conservative Party
The Constitution Party
The Green Party
The Libertarian Party
The Modern Whig Party
The N.C. Center for Voter Education
NC Common Cause
The John Locke Foundation
We also gratefully welcome other organizations interested in free elections to join this Coalition and help us make a difference in North Carolina.
Through its member organizations, the Free the Vote Coalition will work to network groups and individuals from across the state, representing all shades and colors of the political spectrum, in support of the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011. We will work to restore free choice, and in turn, the right to vote in North Carolina.
The Free the Vote Coalition is extremely grateful to Rep. Stephen LaRoque, who has not only agreed to be the primary lead sponsor of this bill in the House, but has been instrumental in assisting us in lining up additional sponsors and co-sponsors for this long-overdue reform.
We are also grateful to Democracy NC and the NC Green Party for helping us gather additional sponsors from both political parties in the General Assembly; joining Rep. LaRoque as primary sponsors are Representatives Glen Bradley and Paul Luebke. Several other representatives have agreed to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill, including the legislator’s only unaffiliated member, Rep. Bert Jones. This in its self shows that our wide-ranging Coalition has an can continue to make a difference.
Such support makes this legislation more than just a non-partisan bill. It is a trans-partisan bill, one that transcends political parties and ideologies to connect to the fundamental issue at hand, that of inherent freedom.
The Electoral Freedom Act will enact basic and fundamental reform in North Carolina’s election laws. It will establish, clear, simple and less restrictive means for ballot access regulations that are applicable to all political parties and unaffiliated candidates.
The bill will eliminate percentage-based requirements to allow political parties and candidates to clearly discern the goal they must achieve for ballot placement. For example, the bill will lower the number of signatures a new political party needs to get on the ballot to a fixed 10,000 signatures. It will also significantly lower the number of signatures an unaffiliated candidates needs to run for Statewide office to a fixed 5,000 signatures and lower the requirements for offices from the US Congress to you local City Council using numbers which are reasonable and more in line with our neighboring states. While the Electoral Freedom Act is not the end of our state’s need for electoral reform, in its present form it will undoubtedly allow for a better and more free flow of diverse ideas and allow voters to freely express their views through the candidates of their choice without discrimination based on their individual political views.
Free the Vote North Carolina is proud to have brought together groups with such divergent political ideologies and views in a common cause. We believe this unity clearly demonstrates that ballot access reform is not a partisan or special interest group issue, but a question of fundamental freedom that transcends political differences. This Coalition believes that the Tarheel State can and must do better than its current laws and that free choice on the election ballot is not an issue to be flippantly dismissed but an issue of utmost importance to democratic ideals. Free choice and truly representative government demand that North Carolina break down these barriers to political participation and so do the members of the Free the Vote Coalition.
Speech Presented by Jordon M. Greene, President and Founder of Free the Vote NC, at the February 1, 2011 Free the Vote NC Press Conference at the NC General Assembly in Raleigh, NC