If the local elections that took place across North Carolina this week are any indication, the Republican effort to roll back voting rights in the state and enact other regressive policies have inspired students at historically black schools to stand up, soldier forth, and fight back at the ballot box. After Elizabeth City State University student Montravias King declared his intention to run for a local city council seat earlier this year, he faced a legal challenge from Pasquotank County GOP chair Richard “Pete” Gilbert. Gilbert claimed King should be disqualified because he was registered to vote at his college dormitory, arguing that it is only a temporary residence. Gilbert had previously challenged registrations of students at the historically black school for the same reason but not of students at the nearby largely white Christian college. The Pasquotank County Board of Elections sided with Gilbert and struck King from the ballot. But with the help of attorneys with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, King appealed the local board’s decision to the state elections board, which last month unanimously upheld his constitutional right to run for office.
On Tuesday, King emerged the victor again: He won the Fourth Ward city council seat with 38.31 percent of the vote. “I think people think this is a young man being told ‘no’ [who] took it to another level, and that’s the type of leader they want,” King told WAVY.com. “They don’t want to hear, ‘it can’t be done.’ We are not going to give up.”
And in North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh, students at St. Augustine’s University — a historically black private school just blocks from the legislature — marched to the polls en masse, the culmination of a campus voter registration drive. The effort was part of a pro-voting initiative the students are undertaking with Common Cause North Carolina.