North Carolina goes all in with DNC in having Biden alone on primary ballot, flouting Democrat challengers

North Carolina’s election board unanimously decided Tuesday to accept the state Democratic Party’s request to have President Biden as the lone Democrat presidential candidate. 

The five-member State Board of Elections voted unanimously to stick with the candidate lists provided by the state’s Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties last month. The board had given initial approval to those names at its Dec. 19 meeting, when members also agreed to reconvene Tuesday to consider additional names before ballots are printed.

Board officials said that five additional people had unsuccessfully asked to join the presidential primaries. They included U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, author Marianne Williamson and media personality Cenk Uygur for the Democrats, and Jill Stein for the Green Party. A board attorney said Tuesday it was unclear which primary another person, Luis Lavin, had asked to run in.

Williamson reacted on X, writing, “North Carolina goes all in with the DNC. No Democrat but Biden gets to be on the ballot.”

“We are disappointed that the North Carolina Board of Elections abdicated their authority to protect North Carolina voters from the North Carolina Democratic State Party’s attempt to circumvent democracy,” Williamson’s campaign said in a statement. “It is not the job of the State Board of Elections to protect incumbents. It is their job to oversee elections in a non-partisan manner.” 

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President Biden on the South Lawn of the White House after arriving on Marine One in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“By the standards of inclusion set in North Carolina state statutes, Marianne Williamson is a FEC-certified Presidential candidate, has received extensive national news media coverage, is a member of the Democratic Party, and meets all the requirements for the Office of President as set forth in the United States Constitution,” her campaign argued. “Their decision to protect political parties instead of voters is a failure to protect democracy itself. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has disgraced themselves and disgraced the voters of North Carolina. The crisis of Democracy in our nation is institutional.”  

Phillips also slammed the decision, writing, “Never imagined the Florida and North Carolina Democratic Parties would use Iran’s tactics to guarantee the outcome of an election.”

“North Carolina law requires parties to list candidates for President who are ‘generally advocated & recognized in the news media,’ which I am,” Phillips wrote. “That’s why 15 made the ballot in 2020: Biden, Sanders, Bloomberg, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, Gabbard, Yang, Booker, Bennet, Patrick, Williamson, Delaney, & Castro.”

Williamson campaigning in Maine

Marianne Williamson speaks at a campaign event at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.  (Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

“This year the Democratic Party decided an election wasn’t desirable – so they shafted voters by placing only Biden’s name on the ballot,” he added. “The destruction of democracy by the people entrusted with protecting it.”

State law directs parties to provide lists of candidates whose bids for the nation’s highest office are “generally advocated and recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in North Carolina.” The law gives the board discretion to add more candidates whom a majority believes meet the same standard. But none of the board’s members proposed doing so.

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Board members who spoke Tuesday said it was appropriate to defer to the wishes of political parties holding primaries that are ultimately designed to choose delegates to their respective national conventions.

“I’m mindful that these are private political parties and that they have associational rights,” Stacy “Four” Eggers, one of two Republicans on the board, told the Associated Press. The other three members are registered Democrats.

Philips in front of campaign bus in New Hampshire

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-MN, holds a rally outside of the New Hampshire Statehouse after handing over his declaration of candidacy form for president to the New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, on Oct. 27, 2023.  (Gaelen Morse/Getty Images)

State Democratic Party spokesperson Tommy Mattocks defended the party’s decision last month to offer only Biden as a candidate, saying in a text that “to get on the ballot, you need to have donors in the state and be actively campaigning in the state.” Phillips and Williamson “haven’t been here this cycle,” Mattocks told the AP.

As for Stein, the North Carolina Green Party wrote the board last month saying that it would not participate in the March primary, but instead offer a general election candidate after the party’s nominating convention.

The board did include former President Trump on the Republican ballot, despite efforts in some states to disqualify him. In addition to Trump, the state GOP presented Ryan Binkley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy as candidates on its presidential ballot.

By a 4-1 vote two weeks ago, the board rejected a challenge to Trump’s candidacy by a Stokes County voter who argued the U.S. Constitution disqualifies Trump because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Brian Martin’s challenge said Trump violated a section of the 14th Amendment that bars from office anyone who once took an oath to uphold the Constitution but then “engaged” in “insurrection or rebellion” against it. The amendment has been cited in rulings in Colorado and Maine that have banned Trump from those states’ ballots.

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In North Carolina, the board’s majority had determined that it lacked the authority in state law to consider such a primary challenge. Martin, a retired lawyer who served in Republican U.S. presidential administrations, last week appealed the board decision to Wake County Superior Court, where he asked that swift action be taken. Absentee ballots can start being mailed to voters who requeest them in less than three weeks.

The Libertarian Party will have 10 names for its North Carolina presidential primary ballots. Voters in the presidential primaries can also cast a “No Preference” vote instead of one for a candidate. The No Labels Party, which like the Green Party is an official political party in North Carolina, can also offer a presidential ticket to place on general election ballots.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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