****UPDATE: The original article about Erika Bales affiliation has since been updated with information from her campaign.****
A candidate in the District Judge race for seat 15B in Orange and Chatham Counties was discovered to not be registered to the Democratic party on Friday, which would normally disqualify someone from the Democratic primary election. With early voting having already begun, however, the candidate plans to remain in the race and on the ballot.
According to Matt Hughes, the Second Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, the State Board of Elections disqualified candidate Erika Bales on Friday after it was discovered she is registered as unaffiliated.
This afternoon it was brought to my attention that a candidate for District Court judge, Erika Bales, was registered unaffiliated but running in the Democratic primary. I asked the State Board for their opinion about eligibility.
— Matt Hughes (@mghughesnc) February 14, 2020
Hughes, who is also a town commissioner in Hillsborough, later said the discrepancy was brought to his attention by someone doing research on candidates for voter education purposes. He said candidates must be registered to the party whose primary they are running in 90 days prior to filing for election.
Bales said in a tweet to Chapelboro the Orange County Board of Elections had contacted her and she was “looking into [her] options” and her supporters were disappointed about the late revelation that something was wrong with her candidacy. She later confirmed she received a call from the Orange County Board of Elections after 4 p.m. on Friday about the discrepancy.
Over the weekend, Bales told Chapelboro she plans to contest any disqualification and remain in the race. She said she believes there are “certain legal and equitable arguments to be made” regarding early voting having already begun on Thursday and her name being included on the ballot.
Bales’ campaign later released a statement from the candidate on its website also saying it will contest the narrative she has been disqualified and encouraging any voters with questions to contact the campaign.
“My name is on the ballot,” Bales’ statement reads. “People have voted for me. I have run as a Democrat in good faith based on certification by both the Orange County Board of Elections and the North Carolina State Board of Elections.”
Voting records show an Erika Bales living in Cedar Grove registered in Orange County as unaffiliated on May 7, 2010.
According to the Orange County Board of Elections, residents must complete a new registration application each time they wish to change party affiliation. This can be done on voter verification cards mailed after registration, which have an area to update your information and request you send back to the board. Unaffiliated voters can choose which party’s ballot with which they want to vote each primary election.
If unable to continue in the Democratic primary, Bales may still be able to run in the general election, according to the State Board of Elections’ rules on unaffiliated residents. To have your name entered on a district court judge ballot in a general election while unaffiliated, one must submit a petition request form to the state board. The petition must then be signed by 2 percent of the qualified voters in the district as reflected by the state board’s voter registration records as of January 1 of the election year. The petitioner must then file the signed pages with the affected county boards of election by noon on the day of the primary. This year’s primary election date is Tuesday March 3.
Early voting in the Democratic primary, as well as other local, state and national elections, began on Thursday.