Under the Dome

Dome: Look for a new political party on November’s ballot

jfrank@newsobserver.comApril 13, 2012 

A new political party is expected to appear on North Carolina’s ballot in November.

The nonpartisan Americans Elect wants to offer voters an alternative to the two-party political system. It submitted about 86,000 certified signatures from North Carolina residents to get on the ballot, joining the Democrat, Republican and Libertarian parties who will nominate candidates. (The organization collected 120,000 signatures, about 86,000 of which local counties certified, organizers said.) Americans Elect needs 85,379 signatures, or 2 percent of the votes cast in the last general election, to make the cut, according to state law.

Voters will decide the party’s candidates in an online nominating convention in June. Anyone can run for president, and all registered voters are eligible to serve as delegates.

Luke Shuffield, a Duke University junior, delivered the signatures Wednesday morning. He said the group is going to harness technology to attract support. “I think we’ve already seen in the last couple elect cycles that new technology and social movements can be powerful in elections,” he said. “We acknowledge it’s an uphill battle, but I don’t think it’s too idealistic at all … given the stark divide we have in politics.”

Americans Elect is on the ballot in 21 states – North Carolina will be No. 22, once certified by the State Board of Elections. Organizers expect to collect the signatures to contest all 50 states. The nonprofit – which shuns the idea that it’s a third party – is accepting campaign contributions from individuals but not special interests, corporations or political action committees. The idea, organizers say, is to find a candidate who answers to the voters, not political parties.

“I think you’re going to find that a lot of people aren’t really satisfied with two options,” Shuffield said.

Pope and Gingrich break bread

Spotted at Winston’s Grille in Raleigh having dinner Monday with presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was Raleigh businessman Art Pope.

Pope, a major GOP contributor, confirmed he had dinner with Gingrich, but said it doesn’t mean he was backing the former House speaker.

“I am not endorsing,” Pope said. “I am staying neutral in the presidential primary.”

Pope declined to discuss the specifics of the conversation, other than to say there was general talk about the convention platform and the direction of the party in the fall. Gingrich and Pope were part of a small group that included businessman Bob Luddy, and attorney Tom Farr.

House goes fraud fishing

The N.C. House wants the public to submit evidence of unemployment fraud to bolster its efforts to reform the system. A task force formed by Speaker Thom Tillis is trying to identify fraud and abuse in the unemployment system, and is asking people to email comments to members. “Individuals, particularly those impacted by fraudulent overpayments, are encouraged to submit their ideas,” the notice reads.

“In my district, I’ve discovered several startling cases of unemployment fraud, and my concern is that there are similar stories out there that have not been brought to our attention,” Rep. G.L. Pridgen, a task force co-chairman, said in a statement.

The solicitation appears to bolster critics’ complaints that the House task force is a solution in search of a problem.

Staff writers John Frank, Rob Christensen

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