Constitution Party Challenges NCSBE Over Ballot Access Dispute

Vinny Smith (gubernatorial candidate), Al Pisano (state chairman) and Randall Terry, presidential Candidate along with members of Constitution Party of NC. Source: Carolina Journal

By Katherine Zehnder
Carolina Journal

This week, the Constitution Party of North Carolina and its gubernatorial and presidential candidates spoke to media outside the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE), calling for answers on their current petition for ballot access, which the NSCBE says is still under review.

“They’ve already acknowledged that we have met the required signatures to get us on the ballot and get a party on the ballot,” said Al Pisano, state chairman of the Constitution Party of North Carolina. “We have a deadline we must meet, which is July 1.”

Pisano says that the party had notified the board that some county boards of elections were not following procedures and processes regarding petition drives. He said that the party requested that the NCSBE not hold the actions of the county boards against the party, and sent in evidence every time a problem has occurred.  

Patrick Gannon, public information officer for NCSBE, addressed these concerns in an email exchange with Carolina Journal, acknowledging that it was brought to the board’s attention.

“…some county boards of elections may not have completely reviewed petition signatures by checking them against voter registration records, which is part of the petition review process required by law,” Gannon told the Carolina Journal in an email. “The State Board confirmed that this was the case and had the relevant counties check the signatures gathered in their county, which they completed earlier this week.”

Pisano said the Constitution Party’s effort to get on North Carolina ballots has been ongoing for three years.

“On April 1, we delivered our petitions,” he said. “According to the petition tracker that the State Board of Elections has, their numbers are in real time. You can watch that day to day as the numbers change as to our voter verification status. That’s the only way that we can track how many votes we have or how many verified signatures we have. Because some of the counties aren’t sending petitions back to us, they’re not following the procedures. So, we counted on that tracker; the tracker said we were way over. So, we delivered all the petitions that we had.”

Gannon responded to these accusations as well.

“Staff was very clear when it communicated with the organization in mid-April that the organization had not submitted the required number of signatures to the State Board, despite what the organization had claimed,” said Gannon. “Rather than counting the actual signatures they had in hand and then delivered to the State Board — the legally relevant number — the organization was apparently relying on the State Board’s total signature count reflected on our online tracker of signatures that is used to show what had been verified by the counties. At the time, included in the overall total signatures for the current petition were signature counts that counties had validated in an earlier petition campaign, which cannot be recounted in this cycle. The organization was informed of this data error, as well as the fact that the numbers for each individual county on our petition tracker for their petition, which the organization could check against their actual signatures in hand, was accurate and not affected by this data error.”

The party received an email from NCSBE notifying them that the system was glitching and that 2,000 signatures were being eliminated, according to Pisano. However, he says it took two weeks for the party to be notified about the “glitch.” He also said the party was never presented with any evidence, and the board didn’t offer to sit down and talk with the party.

“The Constitution Party never received the 2,000 signatures they allegedly said were ‘eliminated’ as part of this 2024 petition,” said Gannon. “Second, State Board staff has kept the party informed throughout the process. Third, they have not been denied access to the ballot. State Board staff continues to review their submissions so the State Board can determine whether they should be recognized as an official NC political party.”

Constitution Party leaders say they’ve had to start over collecting signatures, which put it behind by about a month. According to Pisano, the party submitted over 14,000 signatures during the second round. The minimum number of signatures is 13,865. NCSBE told the party that they were only over the limit by nine signatures, 13,874. 

As of June 1, the We The People Party and the Justice For All Party of NC have exceeded the required 13,865 valid signatures from North Carolina voters per the petition page on the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) website.

Pisano says the majority-Democratic NCSBE board has denied giving the Constitution Party clear answers about where the signatures went. While Gannon says the NCSBE is keeping the party informed, Pisano also claims the board will not respond to or answer their questions.

“Some of the petitions that they said we didn’t turn in, we have copies of, and we’re going to turn those in again,” said Pisano. 

The NCSBE confirms that they are not aware of any complaints filed about the Constitution Party’s petition drive or signatures. 

“This does not change the fact that the State Board must do its due diligence to ensure that prospective party — and any others — has fulfilled all the statutory requirements to become an official political party,” said Gannon.

Until 1999, the Constitution Party was called the US Taxpayers’ Party, and has been on approximately half of the state ballots since the early 2000s.

Speaking in the Raleigh heat outside the NCSBE on Thursday afternoon, Randall Terry, the 2024 presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, said his campaign is built on the 3D Agenda: Defend children, Defeat Biden, and Destroy the Democratic Party. 

“They are voting for abortion to the day of birth, perversion in public schools, transgenderism mutilating children’s genitals, boys playing in girls’ sports, so-called sex education,” said Terry. “The Democrat Party is at war with children, and therefore, we are at war with the Democrat Party. We were the party of the little guy; now we kill the little guy. This party has left not just us; it has left moral decency, and it has become a fortress of evil in league with hell.” 

Terry said that his mission is to see the Democratic Party follow in the footsteps of the Whig Party, the Southern Democrat Party, the Dixiecrat Party, and the American Independence Party. 

“We want the day to come when we are literally dancing on the grave of the DNC,” said Terry. “The single largest voting bloc inside of the Democrat Party are Catholics. The second largest voting bloc is African Americans. As long as Catholics are betraying their faith and African Americans are betraying their race, the Democrat Party continues.”

Terry spoke about what differentiates himself and the Constitution Party from former President Donald Trump. 

“We have a unique place that touches the hearts of moms and dads regarding family issues, ethical issues, and human life issues,” said Terry.  “We’re not focusing on foreign policy. We’re focusing on the fear and love of God and bringing this country back to moral sanity and the protection of children.”

Also speaking at the press conference, Vinny Smith, the Constitution Party’s gubernatorial candidate for North Carolina, questioned the integrity of the state’s ballot access process.

“When you look at what the state board of elections is doing, and obviously how it’s hurting us, as a third party, it’s really about the people,” said Smith. “What the state board of elections is doing is silencing the voice of the people, and that should never happen. When the State Board of Election admits that county directors are not following proper protocol and that their website tracker is inaccurate. This should cause questions: Is the state board of elections capable of running an election with integrity?”

Pisano stated that the Constitution Party is ready to take this to court. In 2022, the Green Party successfully sued the NCSBE for ballot access.

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