Under the glare of a national media spotlight, the North Carolina Board of Elections ruled on two cases Tuesday that offered a glimpse of where the five members appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory stand on the changed electoral landscape. The board members unanimously agreed that an Elizabeth City State University student can run for local office, reversing a decision by the Republican-controlled Pasquotank County elections board. But in a 4-1 vote, the state board brushed aside an attempt to overturn a Watauga County elections board decision to close an early-voting site on the Appalachian State University campus for the coming municipal election. The decisions came amid extensive state and national attention to rulings and proposals by new Republican-controlled county boards that critics describe as attempts to squelch the under-30 vote.
“They’re not leaning in favor of access for voters when they have discretion,” said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, an election advocacy group. “But in the cases where the law’s very clear and there’s case-law precedent, they don’t want to look extreme so they don’t go beyond that.”
Demonstrators gathered outside elections board offices Tuesday and filled an overflow room to sit in on and listen to the debate about the cases from Pasquotank and Watauga counties.
Montravias King, the Elizabeth City State University senior whose case has been highlighted in several broadcasts by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, said after the hearing that he never thought his bid for local office would have thrust him into the spotlight.
“I never would have thought I would end up on the Rachel Maddow show talking about voter suppression in North Carolina,” he said to a bank of media cameras and applauding supporters.