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By: Dr. Joe Guarino Originally  Published:

One piece of legislation in which I have acute interest is HB 794– the Voter Freedom Act.  And there is some good news to report.  The bill just passed its third reading in the North Carolina House of Representatives.  That means it beat the “crossover deadline,” and is headed over to the North Carolina Senate for consideration.

The Voter Freedom Act would begin the process of fixing a longstanding inequity in the state of North Carolina.  Currently, our state has enormous legal barriers erected that are designed to prevent participation by third parties in the political process.  The legislation passed this week by the House would mandate the study of ballot access reform, and ultimately lead to recommendations for the General Assembly to adopt.  (The language in the bill, however, is a bit muddy.)

Yes, this is a gradual process.  But it is apparently what was politically achievable this year.

Disclosure: I happen to be affiliated with the Constitution Party of North Carolina.  A number of other third parties, however, also have an interest in seeing such legislation adopted.

It will now be very important for the North Carolina Senate to consider this legislation in good faith, and allow a vote.

My understanding is that some Republicans in Raleigh are concerned this type of legislation would represent a threat to the Republican Party.  Perhaps that is why the Voter Freedom Act is only a “study bill.”  But improved ballot access would also help third parties on the left side of the political spectrum–not just the right.

Political liberty is inconsistent with North Carolina’s status quo that allows only two political parties to possess a near-stranglehold on ballot access.  Voters ought to be free to choose from a wider range of options across the political spectrum.  And third parties should be free to compete.

North Carolina Senate– it’s your turn!

Dr. Joe Guarino is the Guardian‘s senior columnist.