@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

NC elections board gives college voters split decision

Posted September 3, 2013

— The State Board of Elections gave a boost Tuesday to college students interested in running for political office but turned aside an argument that forcing them to leave campus to vote was a hardship.

The board's moves and the decision by the Watauga County Board of Elections to back off of plans to shut down an Election Day precinct on the Appalachian State University campus slow down, for now, efforts by local Republican-controlled elections boards to make it tougher for student voters.

The Pasquotank County Board of Elections ruled last month that Montravias King, a senior at Elizabeth City State University, couldn't run for city council because his campus dormitory doesn't qualify as a permanent residence.

King's lawyer, Clare Barnett, argued that the county board's decision flies in the face of state and federal court decisions allowing students to vote in their college towns. Ruling that a dormitory isn't a permanent residence because students don't live there year-round is akin to ruling that military personnel who are deployed cannot vote where they are based, she said.

"There is no compelling government justification to treat (students) any differently than any other group of voters," said Barnett, with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. "The dormitory is Mr. King's chosen abode according to state law."

Pete Gilbert, who challenged King's candidacy, maintained that King provided only "superficial" evidence that he was a resident of Elizabeth City. He also said he wasn't challenging King's right to vote in town – King has voted there every year since 2009 – only his ability to run for office.

State elections board members chided Bonnie Godfrey, the Republican chairwoman of the Pasquotank County elections board, who said she relied on a statement from an Elizabeth City State official that dorms aren't considered permanent housing in reaching her decision to remove King's name from the ballot.

"I'm troubled when I look at the (local) order and the rationale for the order," said state board member Josh Malcolm, a Democrat.

The three Republican members of the state board joined with the two Democrats in a unanimous vote to overturn the Pasquotank County decision and reinstate King's candidacy.

State Board of Elections Chairman Josh Howard Local efforts to limit college voting slowed

State Board of Elections NC elections board reviews App State, ECSU cases

College voters got a second chance to cheer when the Watauga County board told state officials that they would rescind a recent decision to consolidate the Appalachian State voting precinct into a a so-called "super precinct" of 9,000 voters, which is far larger than state law allows.

But the state board upheld by a 4-1 vote the Watauga County plan to shutter an early voting site on campus for this fall's municipal elections.

Luke Eggers, the Republican chairman of the county board, said the early voting site at the county elections office in Boone is about a half-mile from campus, and it doesn't make sense to have two sites so close to each other when only a few dozen people per day cast early ballots.

Kathleen Campbell, the lone Democrat on the Watauga County board, said the majority of early votes in the last two municipal elections have been cast at Appalachian State, and the demand for early voting is increasing. If the state board approved consolidating early voting into one site, she said, members should place the site in a renovated section of the student union at Appalachian State, noting that it provides better parking, handicapped accessibility and security.

"Mr. Eggers' one-stop implementation plan has no reasonable basis other than outright voter suppression," Campbell said, later adding that forces are aligning nationwide to try to keep students from the polls.

"They don't want students to vote, and they're trying to keep students from voting by making it inconvenient for them to vote," she said, never specifying who "they" are.

Eggers said the decision to close the campus early voting location was only for the fall municipal elections, saying the board hasn't started to look at its needs for the 2014 state and federal elections.

10 Comments

This blogpost is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • ezLikeSundayMorning Sep 4, 2:23 p.m.

    The SBOE showed how gov't should deliberate and come to reasonable decisions. Sure, there is a case to be made to put the one early voting site where the most votes typically come in, but it is still reasonable to have it a half mile away especially if that is a county elections office where their workers would be anyway.

    Students, military, and others get to choose where they want to be a resident for voting purposes. Some feel participating where they are is more important. As long as they just pick one this is not a real problem.

  • kdogwnc Sep 4, 2:14 p.m.

    The roadblocks aimed at suppressing student votes at Appalachian State work equally well to discourage hard working faculty and staff (some 2800 total) from exercising their Constitutional right to vote.

  • dwntwnboy2 Sep 4, 1:24 p.m.

    "Eggers said the decision to close the campus early voting location was only for the fall municipal elections, saying the board hasn't started to look at its needs for the 2014 state and federal elections"- in other words, they will work on how to stop students from voting then too, they just don't know how they are going to go about trying to do so yet. Their attempt to wipe the minutes clean of their conversations and actions at their recent meetings speak almost as loud as their horrible plans to disenfranchise voters.

  • krimson Sep 4, 11:04 a.m.

    UNC70: don't bother with WEIN. The guy that just stated in his previous post that the SCOTUS opinion that students can claim their dorms as their residence is "insane"...

  • unc70 Sep 4, 10:03 a.m.

    Whatelseisnew,

    The various levels of government create private sector jobs all the time. Every time it buys some product or contracts with a private company, government crested private sector jobs. Highways and schools are constructed by private companies under government contract.

  • kdogwnc Sep 4, 8:58 a.m.

    @whatelseisnew...a LEGAL address for voting is clearly defined in both statutory and case law. The SBOE actions with respect to Mr. King's candidacy in Pasquotank County follows the letter and spirit of the law.

    There is a big difference between college students and the military (well...except for the school I call my alma mater). But in terms of voting rights there is absolutely zero difference. The residency requirements for voting apply equally to college students and members of the military and construction workers and farm workers and oil rig workers - all of whom might be considered migrant.

    To suggest that college students can't vote where they reside (on or off campus) is to deny them principle of "consent of the governed," since they are in fact governed by laws and regulations of the locality where they go to school.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 4, 8:22 a.m.

    "I hope we can get on with solving actual problems, especially creating more jobs."

    It is not the ROLE of government to create jobs. In fact, you should not WANT them to create jobs, because they only actually create GOVERNMENT jobs, thus not adding to the pot, but subtracting from the pot. Not sure why people keep thinking Government can create private sector jobs, when clearly they mostly DESTROY private sector jobs.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 4, 8:20 a.m.

    "Ruling that a dormitory isn't a permanent residence because students don't live there year-round is akin to ruling that military personnel who are deployed cannot vote where they are based, she said."

    Actually most of them do not vote where they are based and there is an enormous difference between a college student and someone serving in the military. Absentee ballots are the vehicle by which people not currently at their LEGAL addresses can vote. This was not a sane ruling, this was an insane ruling, but it is just part of the continuum of turning our election cycles into jokes.

  • AliceBToklas Sep 4, 7:54 a.m.

    Thank goodness some sanity has prevailed here. I hope we can get on with solving actual problems, especially creating more jobs.

  • kdogwnc Sep 3, 10:25 p.m.

    When did the Watauga Board of Elections meet to decide to reverse their earlier decision to combine the three Town of Boone precincts into one? Are there minutes of that meeting? Is a statement from the chairman of the board legally sufficient to cause the SBOE to not rule on that Watauga BOE action?

    I understand the Watauga BOE is meeting on Wednesday 9/4 to officially rescind its earlier decision on combining the precincts. What happens if the chairman changes his mind on the way from Raleigh back to Boone?