Raleigh, N.C. — Students from Shaw and St. Augustine's universities in Raleigh delivered hundreds of voter registrations to Wake County elections officials Friday to qualify students for the local elections next month.
Friday was the deadline to register to vote in the Oct. 8 election, which features school construction and transportation bond referendums in Wake County, as well as races for four Board of Education seats and Raleigh mayor and City Council seats.
About 700 freshmen and transfer students at Shaw and St. Augustine's registered during the two-week voter drive, which amounts to about 90 percent of the freshman class at St. Augustine's and 50 percent at Shaw.
Robert Gray, a junior political science major at St. Augustine's, said the voter drive was designed to increase awareness.
"I hope to get a lot of people politically engaged, politically aware of what's going on – how politics affects where you stay, what you eat, the type of education you receive, the money you make," Gray said. "I really hope to get the word out."
Bob Phillips, executive director of voting-rights group Common Cause North Carolina, said students don't always get engaged in local elections, but this year they are.
"What we're seeing is more of an interest because of the election law passed by the General Assembly, and we've had a lot of kids register as a lead-up to this election," Phillips said.
The new state law requires voters to present photo identification at the polls starting in 2016, eliminates same-day registration and ends early registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. It also calls for changes to campaign finance and advertising regulations.
Gray said students feel like they've been targeted by the law and by the decisions of elections officials in Watauga and Pasquotank counties making it harder for college students to vote. The Watauga County board closed a voting precinct on the Appalachian State University campus, and the Pasquotank County board tried to remove an Elizabeth City State University from the local ballot, saying his dormitory room doesn't qualify as an official residence.
"It just goes to show you how pathetic elected officials can be, how stingy, how arrogant," Gray said.
He added that students need to channel their anger toward involvement in campaigns and getting people to the polls.
Durham, Chapel Hill and Fayetteville will hold primary elections on Oct. 8, with mayoral candidates on the ballot in all three cities.