RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Green Party’s U.S. Senate candidate must be placed on the November ballot, a federal judge ruled Friday, despite Democrats’ repeated attempts to block the progressive party from spoiling one of their best shots at flipping a seat in the narrowly divided chamber.
U.S. District Judge James Dever III's order prohibits the state elections board from enforcing a July 1 candidate filing deadline to keep the Green Party’s Senate nominee, Matthew Hoh, off the ballot in North Carolina.
Though the Green Party had earlier this year submitted a petition to qualify as a new political party, the elections board initially shot it down amid an ongoing investigation into the party's signature gathering process, causing the now-certified Green Party to miss the deadline.
Dever canceled a federal court hearing scheduled for Monday and gave Hoh until Wednesday to submit his paperwork ahead of the board's Aug. 12 ballot printing deadline. But Hoh said he worries an “outrageous new lawsuit” in state court could interfere with Friday's favorable ruling in federal court.
North Carolina Democrats, represented by the powerful Washington-based Elias Law Group, asked a state court Wednesday to overturn the board's unanimous vote certifying the Green Party. The Democrats' lawsuit marks their latest attempt to barricade the ballot after they acknowledged pressuring signers to retract their names from the Green Party petition.
Democrats have warned Hoh's appearance on the ballot could divide progressive voters and lead to a GOP victory in the close Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Rep. Tedd Budd, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
The federal judge’s ruling acknowledged that parallel litigation had been filed, but directed the board to place Hoh on the ballot since federal law takes precedence over state law, according to the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Dever recommended the board follow his instructions despite the case in Wake County Superior Court, writing that the federal court has jurisdiction over “this federal constitutional claim.”
“This important legal victory comes on the heels of unprecedented voter intimidation, harassment and fraud, perpetrated by well-financed partisan operatives to keep us off the ballot,” North Carolina Green Party Co-chair Tony Ndege said Friday.
Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.