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Constitution Party candidates could be on ballots in the fall

Beaufort County voters — and other North Carolina voters — could see more candidate choices when they go to the polls this autumn, thanks to another political party.

The Constitution Party of North Carolina collected enough registered voters’ signatures to qualify as an official state party, according to information found on the North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement website. Once those signatures are verified as those of registered voters, that would permit the party to run candidates in the Nov. 6 general election and through the 2020 election cycle.

That could open the door for the party to run candidates in local elections.

Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law making it easier for political parties to get on ballots. The law lowered the number of signatures needed from 90,000 registered voters to 11,925 registered voters.

As of this week, the state board of elections’ website indicates 12,577 signatures of the 15,984 signatures submitted have been verified by county elections boards that have received petitions with signatures. Once the Constitution Party receives the validated signatures from the county boards, the party has until June 1 to submit them to the state board.

In Beaufort County, 338 voters signed petitions for the Constitution Party, with 325 of those signatures verified, according to Anita Bullock Branch, deputy director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections.

“No one from Beaufort County has registered as a Constitution Party member,” Branch said Tuesday.

Among the Beaufort County residents who signed the petition are Keith Kidwell, a Republican seeking to represent District 79 in the N.C. House of Representatives; Gary Brinn, a Republican Beaufort County commissioner; Bill Cook, the Republican who represents District 1 in the N.C. Senate; and Charles Franklin Early Jr., a Republican seeking to represent District 3 in the state Senate.

In Hyde County, all four of the signatures submitted were verified, according to the state board website.

The validation process is “in progress” according to the state board.

“Based on the online tracker the Constitution Party has reached the number of valid signatures. The petitioner will receive the original sets of signatures back from the counties along with status letters from the counties, then submit those to the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement office. We expect party officials to deliver them to the State Board on May 30,” Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the state board, wrote in an email. “State Board staff will review the submission by the party, and we expect that information will be put in front of the State Board members, which will consider the group’s request for recognition as a political party in North Carolina.”

Expecting that recognition, the Constitution Party has scheduled a June 16 convention in Charlotte to nominate candidates for the fall elections. The party plans to run candidates for Congress, the N.C. General Assembly and county boards of commissioners.

“This is a major step in giving the people of North Carolina a political party that places principle over politics,” said Al Pisano, chairman of the state party, said in a news release.

The state party’s website lists these seven core values of the party: sanctity of life, religious freedom, traditional family, private-property rights, supports Second Amendment, anti-socialism and national sovereignty.

North Carolina officially recognizes these political parties: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green. The Green Party was recognized earlier this year. It’s expected to conduct a convention this summer to nominate candidates for the fall elections.

Any official party would have to complete the signature process if the party fails to have candidates on ballots in at least 70 percent of the states in 2020, and if the party’s candidate for president and governor in North Carolina each fails to get at least 2 percent of the vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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