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Third parties push to ease restrictions to appear on ballot

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RALEIGH — When voters head to the polls in North Carolina, they are likely to only see a democratic and republican candidate on the ballot. But other parties want their candidates considered too.

“We are limiting our choices to two parties and that's not free access,” argued Terry Hardison with the NC Constitution Party.

A case that has been working its way through the state's court system is looking to change that. On Thursday the North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue.

This political debate is all a numbers game. In order to get your party on North Carolina's ballot you need to get signatures from two percent of the total number of people who voted in the last election. Right now, that would mean approximately 84,000 signatures. But the Libertarian Party argues that goes against the state's constitution.

“North Carolina's constitution, unlike others, unlike the federal constitution, has a specific free elections guarantee,” says Kenneth Soo, attorney for the NC Libertarian Party.

On the other side of this issue, the state says they have a compelling interest in making sure that elections run smoothly. They say by making ballot access less restrictive, that might not be possible.

The state argues unregulated ballots could mean an unlimited number of candidates, which would make it difficult to create an optical scan ballot. That could slow things down on election day.

“The problem is, as Mr. Bartlett (with the State Board of Elections) testified in his deposition, is that when people see long lines,” said Alexander Peters, with the NC Attorney General's Office, “when people have to wait in long lines, they may be discouraged from voting.”

But some justices don't buy this argument.

“Electronics today -- you talk around the world on cell phones, smart phones,” says Justice Edward Brady. “You telling me the technology does not exist to handle this simple problem?”

The justices are now considering this issue. They do not have a deadline for when they need to make a ruling.

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