North Carolina’s two major political parties are apparently too big to fail.

A Wake County judge ruled this week that Chris Anglin, a candidate for North Carolina Supreme Court, was deprived of his due process and equal protection rights by a law that retroactively stripped the “R” from beside his name on the ballot.

Even though Anglin only became a Republican days before filing, he’ll almost certainly get to keep the party label in November because he followed all the rules as they were laid out beforehand. The General Assembly is not able to change election rules in the middle of the game, the judge decided.

Chris Anglin. Photo by Anglin for Justice via Facebook.

The 11-page decision is among the most straightforward I’ve read in a decade-plus of reporting. It makes perfect sense.

But it also hinges on a troubling fact: It’s virtually impossible to get elected in North Carolina if you’re not a Democrat or Republican.

You see, Anglin wouldn’t be able to sue over the law if he wasn’t harmed by it. And that requires harm to be done in removing partisan affiliation on the ballot.

It’s stated as a simple fact in the Wake judge’s ruling.

Curious, I obtained the three-page affidavit filed by Gary O. Bartlett, the former executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

As an expert on election patterns, Bartlett spells out some troubling details on how people vote. Not surprising, mind you, but troubling.

“Many voters do not know who the candidates are or who they will vote for until they enter the voting booth,” Bartlett writes. He says that people rely on the partisan label to make their decision — with the letter beside the name being the “most significant determinant of voting behavior.”

How’s that for a low view of the voting public?

But I’d be hard-pressed to argue that it’s not justified. This illustrates the uphill battle North Carolina’s two new political parties — the Constitution Party and the Green Party — have in gaining traction. And it explains why so few unaffiliated candidates have ever won office, even when unaffiliated voters make up the second-largest group bloc in the state.

In the economics world, “too big to fail” recognizes that some banks are so big that the country’s financial system couldn’t function without them.

That’s clearly where we are today with the two big political parties. Perhaps that’s just as damaging.

Cover photo of the Wake County Courthouse via Flickr (Creative Commons).


  1. Among registered voters in NC, Democrats are the largest group (38%), unaffiliated are the second largest (30.3%), and Republicans come a hair behind in third place. It amazes me that, given these statistics, Republicans have had 100% of legislative power since 2010.


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