RALEIGH N.C. (CN) — A federal judge this week ordered North Carolina to restore three candidates of the Constitution Party to ballots for legislative and county seats, finding the State Board of Elections violated the party’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Constitution Party of North Carolina and the three candidates sued the state on July 20, after it barred James Allen Poindexter, Jerry Jones and Greg Holt from the November ballot, under a law passed by the General Assembly on June 20.
The State Board of Elections voted unanimously on June 6 to recognize the party and its chosen candidates, but the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 486 into law 14 days later. The law retroactively stripped the three candidates’ ability to appear on the ballot. The General Assembly claimed that since these candidates ran and lost bids for the same seats under the Democratic and Republican parties in the May primaries, they are not eligible to rerun under the Constitution Party.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the initial bill, saying: “Continued election meddling for partisan advantage weakens public confidence.” Both houses of North Carolina’s General Assembly are controlled by Republicans.
The Constitution Party’s platform promotes seven core values, including “the sanctity of life,” “religious freedom,” and “anti-socialism.”
Represented by S. Mark Henkle of Charlotte, the Constitution Party claimed the new law was unfair as the general election process had begun weeks before it was passed, and the candidates filed more than the required number of petition signatures, in a timely manner.
“It’s just going to make a mess of the system this year,” an unidentifed member of the General Assembly said, according to the complaint. “It’s not fair to change the rules after the game [the election] has started.”
U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan ruled Wednesday that the retroactive removal of the candidates was an “erratic execution” of election laws.