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Should No Labels be recognized as a political party? NC board appears skeptical.

Pat McCrory
Hal Goodtree
Former Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who was also a longtime Charlotte mayor, is seen in an undated photo.

The North Carolina Board of Elections appears skeptical that the centrist group No Labels should be recognized as a political party, according to newly posted documents ahead of a critical vote Sunday.

No Labels has collected enough signatures — nearly 14,000 — to be approved as a new political party. But the state Board of Elections is concerned whether the people who signed the petition understood that No Labels might field a presidential candidate in 2024.

In an Aug. 7 letter to No Labels, the Board of Elections asked about an NBC News interview last month with No Labels chief executive Nancy Jacobson, in which she first said the group would never run a third-party ticket. She later said that the group was only building the infrastructure so that a ballot could be offered for a ticket.

The elections board asked No Labels whether it explained this to the people who signed the petition.

"Did you explain this to the voters you asked to sign the petitions for new political party status? If so, please provide information in support," the board wrote.

No Labels said it’s a bipartisan organization dedicated to finding what it calls common-sense solutions to the nation’s problems. The group has said it may field a candidate for president if it appears likely there will be a rematch of Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump.

No Labels is holding a convention in Dallas in April. It could nominate a ticket then.

Democratic West Virginia U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and former Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman have been mentioned as a possible No Labels ticket.

Some Democrats are worried a No Labels candidate could siphon votes from President Biden next year, opening the door to a victory by former President Trump in a closely divided election. The state board of elections has a 3-2 Democratic majority.

Last month the board chair, Democrat Alan Hirsch, said he was concerned about whether No Labels had given the people who signed the petition enough information about what they were signing. The board delayed making a decision.

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Former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a No Labels co-chair, said he’s frustrated by the delay.

"We’re extremely concerned that this non-elected body is playing politics regarding the people’s right to have another party on the ballot," McCrory told WFAE.

In an Aug. 3 letter to the board, No Labels said it’s being subjected to “hurdles and requirements” that other prospective political parties haven’t faced, and that the board has pushed its decision back four times.

The board is voting on Sunday in Concord, ahead of a two-day conference of county elections directors and board members to be held there early in the week.

Last year, the board was skeptical of the Green Party’s efforts to get on the ballot for the 2022 election, though it ultimately said yes.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
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