RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Some North Carolina voters could have even more choices on their ballots starting this fall with another political party.

The Constitution Party of North Carolina has collected enough signatures from registered voters to qualify as an official state party, according to data posted at the state elections board website. That would allow the party to field candidates starting in November and through the 2020 elections.

The legislature made it easier last year for parties to get on ballots by passing a law that lowers the number of signatures needed from more than 90,000 registered voters to 11,925 today. The state board website shows over 12,000 signatures have been verified by county boards of elections that received them.

The state Constitution Party now will receive back the validated signatures from the counties and submit them to the state board before a June 1 deadline, according to Kevin Hayes, the party’s state vice chairman. That information will be reviewed before the state board reviews the group’s request for recognition, state board spokesman Pat Gannon said.

In anticipation of recognition, the Constitution Party has scheduled a June 16 convention in Charlotte to nominate candidates for the fall elections.

Hayes said he anticipates the party, which emphasizes fiscal conservatism, a strict reading of the U.S. Constitution, religious freedom and opposition to abortion, will field candidates 15 to 20 candidates for the legislature, Congress and county commissions.

“This is a major step in giving the people of North Carolina a political party that places principle over politics,” state Chairman Al Pisano said in a release.

The North Carolina Green Party already became an official party in March through a new qualification method also approved by the General Assembly last year — its candidates appeared on ballots in at least 35 states in the last presidential election. The Green Party is planning a similar convention to choose candidates.

The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties also are official parties.

Any official party would have to complete the signature process if the party fails to have candidates on ballots in at least 70 percent of the states in 2020, and if the party’s candidate for president and governor in North Carolina each fails to get at least 2 percent of the vote.

Copyright 2018, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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