RALEIGH, NC (AP) — A day after Connor Harney received anonymous text messages urging him to withdraw his signature from a petition qualifying Green Party candidates for the November ballot in North Carolina, he said unidentified canvassers “tried to interfere with our democracy.” ” to his doorstep.
A woman claiming to represent the state Board of Elections showed up at his home in Fuquay-Varina in late June, a checklist of street addresses in hand, and repeated the request, he said.
When Harney — a 31-year-old historian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — refused and questioned the woman’s affiliation, she left with a warning: If Green Party candidates gained ballot access, they could take votes away from Democrats and hand them to them. GOP wins in tight Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Trump-backed Republican Rep. Ted Budd.
“I told her, ‘What you’re doing now is going to make the Democrats very disappointed,'” said Harney, a registered independent. “But, more importantly, it’s antithetical to the democratic process because you’re actively trying to make sure another party doesn’t get on the ballot.”
The controversy surrounding the Green Party’s stalled effort to field a Senate candidate has exposed the Democratic Party’s bareknuckle efforts to prevent key November votes from alienating the progressive bloc.
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The state Board of Elections rejected the Democratic majority Green Party petition In a 3-2 vote on June 30, petition sheets with nearly identical handwriting, incomplete personal information, fake names and deceased signatures.
The Green Party filed a lawsuit The board will investigate the validity of his signatures, alleging Democratic interference in the petition process and asking the court to reverse the board’s decision.
Harney is one of more than a dozen signers named in the lawsuit who reported receiving threatening messages, calls or home visits.
The signatories said some canvassers refused to identify themselves or falsely claimed to represent the Green Party or the Election Board. Others said it was sent by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — the driving force working to elect Beasley and other Democratic Senate candidates across the country.
With the Senate deadlocked 50-50, North Carolina is one of the few states where Democrats have a strong chance of picking up the seat, said Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper. Despite the stakes, he found the Democrats’ tactics “jaw-dropping.”
“This is not normal politics,” Cooper said. “We expect political parties to win – that’s not the problem. It crosses the line when they appear to be resorting to threats and in some cases lies.
Democrats agree to ask signers to remove their names, but say they’re just trying to make sure they don’t trick potential supporters.
DSCC spokeswoman Amanda Sherman said, “We reached out to voters to make sure they weren’t deceived.
Sherman said the DSCC is giving $30 million to North Carolina and eight other Senate battleground states through its “Defend the Majority” campaign, the largest investment the committee has ever made in a campaign cycle.
While Democrats have had little success in dissuading progressive voters from supporting the Green Party’s ballot bid, their lawyers, including DSCC’s general counsel Elias Law Group, have lobbied the board to look into irregularities among the signatures.
With its petition denied, the Green Party missed the July 1 deadline to nominate its candidates for the November ballot. Now the party’s pick for the Senate, Matthew Ho, can only appear by court order or legislative action from the General Assembly, which ends its work session on July 1, said Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon.
The board will present the results of its fraud investigation on Monday, a week before the first hearing of the Green Party lawsuit on August 8.
Rose Ruby, Hoh’s campaign manager, said their uphill battle to reach the ballot illuminates the many obstacles third-party candidates face across the country. But she embraced Hoh’s role as disrupting the status quo and said Democrats had only themselves to blame if the Greens “spoiled” their election.
“The spoiler label is the anti-democratic characterization of what it means to have a healthy democracy,” Ruby said. “If the Democrats don’t want to fear a split in their vote, it’s their job to earn those votes and lay out policies that will get the Green Party out.”
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 confidential issues. Follow her at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.