On April 11, North Carolina Representatives Ken Goodman (D-Rockingham) and Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) introduced HB 737. It converts North Carolina elections for Congress and state office to a top-two system. The bill does not provide for “preference” or “prefers” to appear on the ballot. Nor does it say that the ballot should carry an explanation that party labels on the ballot do not mean that the party approves of any candidate with that party’s label. Therefore, if enacted, it would run afoul of court precedents concerning freedom of association for political parties.
The bill does leave write-in space on the November ballot. However, candidates who filed to run in the May primary, and who didn’t place in the top two, would not be permitted to be write-in candidates in November.
The bill is ambiguous as to whether a candidate registered into an unqualified party would be allowed to have his or her party affiliation printed on the ballot. North Carolina voter registration forms have a blank line for “political party”, so any voter can register into any party he or she desires. However, North Carolina election officials always code voters who register into unqualified parties as non-affiliated, so probably if this bill passed, election officials would not print the party label for a member of an unqualified party.
The bill fails to re-define “political party”. Currently a party remains on the ballot if it polls 2% for President or Governor. However, the provision for 2% for Governor would no longer work, because no party would have nominees for Governor.