Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to supporters at a campaign office in Scarborough, Maine, on Jan. 27, 2020. (AP/Bukaty) Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to supporters at a campaign office in Scarborough, Maine, on Jan. 27, 2020. (AP/Bukaty)

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to supporters at a campaign office in Scarborough, Maine, on Jan. 27, 2020. (AP/Bukaty)

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht February 7, 2020

Bloomberg wrong about North Carolina's primary rules

If Your Time is short

  • A campaign letter says North Carolina's Democratic primary is open to everyone.
  • Unaffiliated NC voters can vote in the Democratic primary -- but if you're registered with a party, you must vote in that party's primary.

Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is trying to boost election participation in North Carolina.

But a recent piece of campaign mail offers misleading information about who can vote in North Carolina’s primaries.

Bloomberg, who entered the presidential race late, has spent millions of dollars on television ads in an attempt to compete with other Democratic candidates such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others. 

In the letter obtained by WRAL, Bloomberg criticizes President Donald Trump for creating "chaos" while in office -- and asks the recipient for her support. Bloomberg then closes the letter with this line:

"P.S. North Carolina election law allows all registered voters, regardless of registration, to vote in the Democratic Primary."

The letter was first reported by The Richmond Observer.

So is it true that any registered voter can vote in any party’s primary? No. 

Semi-closed primary

North Carolina has what’s known as a "semi-closed" primary, according to the NC board of elections.

This means that anybody who is registered with a specific party can only vote in that party’s primary.

Unaffiliated voters can also participate in one party’s primary election -- but only if that party opens its doors to those voters. In North Carolina, political parties aren’t required to open their primaries.

Each of North Carolina’s recognized parties has until the first day of December to inform the NC elections board whether it wants to open its primary.

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This year, the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties will have open primaries, according to the elections board. In other words: if you are registered as an unaffiliated voter in North Carolina, you can participate in one of their primaries.

Meanwhile, the Constitution and Green parties are closed -- meaning you have to be registered with those parties to participate.

A follow-up letter

It’s unclear how many letters the Bloomberg campaign sent in North Carolina. LaToya Evans, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg, told us that the campaign is working to rectify the situation.

"Last week, the campaign sent a letter introducing Mike Bloomberg and his record targeted at Democrats and unaffiliated voters in North Carolina," Evans said in a Feb. 4 email. 

"These voters can show up on election day and vote in the Democratic primary. We are sending a follow up mailer to those who received the letter to clarify how they can participate in the upcoming primary. We regret any confusion this may have caused."

In the meantime, the NC elections board is hoping voters will rely only on official government communications for information.

"We always encourage people to rely on county and state elections boards and their materials for reliable information about elections," board spokesman Pat Gannon told PolitiFact.

Our ruling

Bloomberg’s letter said "North Carolina election law allows all registered voters, regardless of registration, to vote in the Democratic Primary."

That’s not true. North Carolina has a semi-closed primary.

 If you’re an unaffiliated voter, you can vote in one of the major party’s primaries.

If you’re registered with a certain party, you cannot participate in another party’s primary like Bloomberg’s letter implies. We rate this statement False.

Our Sources

Story by The Richmond Observer, "Bloomberg campaign mailer gives misleading information," posted Jan. 29, 2020.

A PDF copy of a letter to North Carolina voters from the Michael Bloomberg 2020 campaign.

Information about the 2019 North Carolina primaries, on the NC State Board of Elections website.

Interview with Pat Gannon, spokesman for the NC State Board of Elections.

Email correspondence with LaToya Evans, a spokeswoman for the Bloomberg campaign in North Carolina.

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Bloomberg wrong about North Carolina's primary rules

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