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Constitution Party files federal lawsuit after members stripped of election ballot access

The Constitution Party of North Carolina is following through on its threat to sue the state over ballot access restrictions.

The Party and three of its members — James Poindexter of Surry County, Jerry Jones of Greene County and Gregory Holt of Craven County — filed suit a little over a week ago in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of North Carolina against the Kim Westbrook Strach, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

The State Board officially recognized the Constitution Party in June, and until then, its candidates did not have ballot access. Prior to official recognition, North Carolinians also could not register for affiliation with the Party.

Because of that, Poindexter and Jones ran for election in the primary as Republican candidates and the Holt ran in the Democratic primary. They all lost.

After the Constitution Party was recognized and held its nominating convention, they submitted Poindexter, Jones and Holt as candidates to the State Board. They were accepted and certified.

But then the General Assembly passed a “sore loser” law preventing anyone who lost in a primary election from being on the ballot in November (Senate Bill 486). The Governor vetoed the legislation but lawmakers overrode his veto and the measure became law June 20.

The State Board subsequently de-certified Poindexter, Jones and Holt, despite previously accepting their candidacy. The three candidates were in the middle of an election process, according to the federal lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs Poindexter, Jones, and Holt are directly injured by N.C. Sess. Law 2018-13 retroactively stripping them of their opportunity to run as candidates of the Constitution Party of North Carolina,” the suit states. “Defendant Constitution Party of North Carolina has been directly injured by not being able to field the candidates that it nominated and approved of at its convention, among others. Furthermore, voters affiliated with Constitution Party of North Carolina have been injured by being deprived of the ability to vote for candidates of the Constitution Party of North Carolina.”

The Party speculates that lawmakers intended to target Rep. Beverly Boswell (R-Beaufort) with SB 486 because they had considered nominating her at the Convention after she lost the Republican primary as an incumbent. However, she was not nominated.

“Even members of the General Assembly have stated that ‘Doing this [changing the election law on running as a candidate of a new party during the election process] at this time bears an appearance that it may be targeting specific individuals,'” the lawsuit states. “Another member of the General Assembly stated that ‘It’s just going to make a mess of the system this year. It’s not fair to change the rules after the game [the election] has started.'”

The Party says its and its members First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution were violated. They seeks to have the court enjoin the State Board from applying SB 486 to Poindexter, Jones and Holt for the November election and issue a preliminary and permanent injunction preventing Strach from removing their names from the general election ballots.

Constitution Party Lawsuit by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

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