A candidate for district court judge in Orange and Chatham counties might not be eligible to be on the ballot.
Erika Bales, a candidate in the Democratic primary race for District 15B, said she was informed that she is not eligible to be the Democratic candidate on the ballot in the November election because she is registered as unaffiliated.
Rachel Raper, director of the Orange County Board of Elections, said Bales has not been officially disqualified because early voting for the primaries has already started.
“She has not been officially disqualified from the race, that is just a choice of words," Raper said. "There is no disqualification process for an election already going on."
Raper also said even though Bales is on the ballot, she would not be able to serve as the Democratic nominee.
“Ballots have already been certified, so she cannot be taken off the ballot, but she cannot accept the Democratic Party’s nomination if she were to be elected," Raper said.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections said in a statement that they made an error in certifying her to run on the Democratic ballot.
“Ms. Bales certified on her notice of candidacy that she was a Democrat when she filed to run for judge, and the state and county boards of elections mistakenly certified her as a Democratic candidate," the statement said.
The statement also explained Bale's ineligibility, saying the State Board office informed her on Wednesday that she was improperly filed.
"She is not eligible to serve as the Democratic nominee if she were to win the primary for district court in District 15B in Orange and Chatham counties," the statement said. "She is an unaffiliated voter.”
Voting records show Bales registered as unaffiliated in Orange County in 2010.
"I vote Democratic, I live Democratic principles, I tend to be more Democratic than anything else, but I try to be open minded in my thinking and look at candidates as who they are as people," Bales said. "I just tend to select Democratic candidates."
Bales also said she takes issue with the fact that judges have to declare party affiliation, because they are supposed to operate neutrally outside of party-minded thought.
“The legislature changed the rules, and judges, who are supposed to be neutral fact finders, are now obligated to declare their personal voting party affiliation as part of the requirements on the form to run as a judge," she said. "Even though technically the only three requirements required to be a district court judge are graduation from law school, passing the bar exam and living in the county, in this case one of the counties."
Bales said she was certified to run as a Democrat by Rachel Raper in Orange County and also by the State Board, and she wishes that someone had caught the error and told her to petition as an unaffiliated candidate.
“There is no political advantage to me being in this primary," she said. "My colleagues, the three gentlemen that are running, are getting harmed by this because I’m getting votes that they might have gotten. If I had been allowed to circumvent the whole Democratic primary shenanigans and gotten my signatures, I would just be on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.”
Raper said Bales still may file to be on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate if she fills out a petition with signatures of 2 percent of the residents in Orange and Chatham counties by March 3.
“The State Board of Elections informed her she was improperly filed and she is not eligible to serve and that she may petition as an unaffiliated candidate because that is what should have happened in the first place," Raper said.
Bales also said she read the statutes for elections after being informed of her ineligibility, and that there is a process for being officially disqualified from an election after voting has finished.
“They needed to stay any decision on that protest until after the election was over," she said.
"Then there were to be hearings, where evidence would be taken, there would be findings of fact and conclusions of law. There was none of that. There were tweets, there were phone calls.”
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