Montravias King is an Elizabeth City State University senior who has been voting in Pasquotank County since he started school there four years ago. The civic-minded student government leader has voted early in city, county, state and national elections in the Pasquotank County seat in northeastern North Carolina, always using his campus dorm address. Now King wants to run for City Council in his college town and his campaign has drawn the attention of such national media figures as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a vocal critic of the sweeping North Carolina elections revisions signed into law last week. Pete Gilbert, the Pasquotank Republican Party chairman, has tried to put a halt to King’s candidacy in a campaign that could test the scope of the state’s elections law changes. As voting site changes are proposed for other college campuses, the Eastern North Carolina incident also could test the extent to actions that voting rights advocates have described as a GOP-controlled effort to weaken turnout among young voters more likely to vote against them.
Gilbert argues that Elizabeth City State University students who live in campus dorms have not established residency for the purpose of voting. He contends a dorm room occupied for only part of the year is a temporary residence, and the county elections board, controlled by Republicans, agreed in a 2-1 vote on Aug. 13 to bar King from the city ballot. The chairman was expected to sign the order on Monday, opening a 48-hour window for appeal to the state Board of Elections.
Clare Barnett, an attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the Durham-based nonprofit organization representing King, argues the local board’s decision is based on a misapplication of the law and a well-established right of college students to vote in their college communities.