County board to student candidate: you can vote (for now), but you can’t run for city council

As reported today in the Elizabeth City Daily Advance, the Pasquotank County Board of Elections has taken the first step towards a ruling that students living in a college dorm are not permanent residents — in this instance, for purposes of running for City Council. But the residency requirements for a candidate are the same as those for a voter.

When asked if he planned extensive challenges of student voters following the city election, County GOP Chair Pete Gilbert, who challenged the student-candidate’s residency, said he planned to “look at one-stop voters,” but declined further comment on the matter.

The full story is reprinted below:

Board: ECSU student cannot run
GOP board says King not a permanent resident
By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

The Republican-led Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday accepted a legal framework for disqualifying students living at Elizabeth City State University from voting in local elections.

On a party-line, 2-1 vote, the board ruled that ECSU student Montravias King had not proven his permanent residency at ECSU, and therefore was not eligible to run for an Elizabeth City City Council seat in the 4th Ward.

Pasquotank County GOP Chair Pete Gilbert challenged King’s candidacy earlier this month, and made his case to the board Tuesday. King was present and testified throughout the hearing; representing him was Clare Barnett, an attorney with the minority-advocacy group the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Barnett said she will appeal the case to the State Board of Elections.

After an hours-long hearing Tuesday, newly appointed board chair Bonnie Godfrey and Jimmy Ownley, both Republicans, told King they felt he hadn’t presented adequate documentation, such as a driver’s license and bills to his campus address, to establish his residency for candidacy purposes. But they also agreed with Gilbert’s central argument against King’s candidacy: that a residence hall is, by definition, not a permanent residence, given college students are not allowed to remain there year-round.

The residency requirements for a candidate are identical to those for a voter.

“They are not there a minimum of four months out of 12,” Gilbert said, citing ECSU generally requiring students to leave for Christmas and summer breaks.

King and his attorney argued he had established a strong presence in Elizabeth City, both in terms of physical address and community involvement.

“I’ve been a resident of this ward since I first entered ECSU … in 2009,” King said, adding the first vote he ever cast was in the 2009 city election. “I’m a firm believer that, wherever I live at, that’s where I participate.”

King, formerly of Snow Hill, said he has lived at ECSU and worked within Elizabeth City since 2009, and has taken summer school every year since he enrolled, including this summer. During summer school sessions, he lived at ECSU, and continued to receive his mail there. He said he’s been active on campus, including as president of the ECSU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also cited his involvement in community organizations such as the Food Bank of the Albemarle and the Elizabeth City Boys and Girls Club.

He dismissed Gilbert’s challenge as “frivolous.”

Barnett argued state law does not intend for the word “permanent” to be taken to mean “forever and ever.” Such an interpretation would suggest other highly mobile groups, such as U.S. Coast Guard personnel, also weren’t eligible to vote in local elections, she said.

She also argued General Statute 163-57 provided that “So long as a student intends to make the student’s home in the community where the student is physically present for the purpose of attending school … the student may claim the college community as the student’s domicile.”

Gilbert disputed her interpretation, arguing that a student would demonstrate that by getting an apartment or buying a house for year-round residency. He also argued King would have demonstrated his intent to establish permanent residency through carrying a driver’s license or other photo ID with an address on it, and making sure all his bills and personal documents were sent to Elizabeth City, rather than Snow Hill.

King was unable to provide a driver’s license during the hearing, saying he did not carry it because he had not driven in two years and did not own a vehicle. He instead offered documentation showing he had recently updated his driver’s license, and offered to show his student ID. Godfrey said it lacked an address and therefore wasn’t valid for the hearing’s purposes.

While neither Godfrey nor Ownley disputed King’s identity or his residence on campus for the last four years, they ultimately ruled he had not met the burden of proof for demonstrating his residency. They also expressed doubts that a residence hall could be considered a permanent residence.

“I just feel you haven’t shown me enough evidence that 1704 Weeksville Road is your permanent residence,” Godfrey said. “Also, the fact that you have no choice — that you must leave that residence — played a factor in that as well.”

Fellow Republican board member Jimmy Ownley similarly commented, “I just feel that 1704 Weeksville Road isn’t your permanent domicile.” Following the meeting, he confirmed the requirement students leave campus throughout the year factored into his decision.

William Skinner, the panel’s lone Democrat, sharply dissented with the other board members. He argued King had clearly shown ECSU was his permanent residence, supported by his right to vote in local elections. He urged the board to dismiss Gilbert’s challenge.

“If you are able to vote, you should be able to run for office, barring any restrictions against you, which we have found none,” Skinner said.

Gilbert praised the board’s decision, and said it calls into question the validity of votes cast by students registered at 1704 Weeksville Road. Asked if he planned extensive challenges of student voters following the city election, Gilbert said he planned to “look at one-stop voters,” but declined further comment on the matter.

He also stressed he encouraged college students to vote, but in their home towns and by absentee ballot, if necessary.

King said he plans to continue to run for office, and considers Gilbert’s challenge part of a broader Republican effort to discourage student voting.

“I don’t see this as personal, I see this as an attack on college students across North Carolina,” he said.

18 Comments

  1. Vicki Boyer

    August 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Has no one told these people that the Supreme Court ruled in 1979, Symm vs. US, that college students have a right to vote at the place where they go to school???

  2. George Greene

    August 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    This is blatantly not even within this county board’s power. Who is eligible to be a candidate is determined by statute. There are certain kinds of challenges that the board can resovle (e.g. residency) but if he can vote in the election, HE CAN RUN IN IT.

  3. George Greene

    August 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    “If you are able to vote, you should be able to run for office, barring any restrictions against you, which we have found none,” Skinner said.

    He *said* this?? Excuse me, this IS NOT a matter of opinion! This is a matter OF LAW!
    SOMEbody better READ it!!

  4. emd

    August 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    By their reasoning, many others, including military personnel, would likely not qualify to vote at home either, as they receive mail overseas or on post wherever their jobs may be, and may well lack no physical address stateside. But maybe it’s just students they want to disenfranchise.

  5. Celia Rowland

    August 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    This is unreal. I hope he contacted the state office of the NAACP since he is a chapter president. They will help move his case forward.

  6. CarolinaSistah

    August 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Something is rotten here in N.C. Republicans are losing their minds! We made a mistake putting these clowns in the majority.

  7. Doug

    August 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    George Greene,
    Your quote is true but here is the thing restricting him:

    he confirmed the requirement students leave campus throughout the year factored into his decision.

    If you are REQUIRED to vacate your housing and go live somewhere else for 30-40% of the year (Christmas in college is usually 3-4 weeks and summer vacation is 4 months when colleges are closed) you are not PERMANENTLY there. Now if the guy rents or purchases an apartment or condo or house then that would be a different story.

  8. GC

    August 14, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    The 1979 NC Supreme Court case of Lloyd V Babb led to a unanimous decision affirming the right of college students living in dorms to vote, though they could be asked questions about their intent. The candidate here has lived continuously in Elizabeth City for 4+ years, in a dorm during school year and an apartment in the summer. He has a drivers license with his campus address. He has voted in 6 elections in Pasquotank County

  9. Skeptic

    August 15, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Celia is absolutely right. Republicans descend lower into the depths of madness everyday. They have sick minds and blackened hearts. No remotely decent person could support them. For that matter, no decent person could feel anything toward them but disgust.

  10. kdog

    August 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

    If the Pasquotank standard is applied elsewhere in the state, many part-time wealthy retirees in our mountain counties will face residency challenges…I’m just saying….especially since ANY REGISTERED VOTER in the state can now challenge the credentials of ANY OTHER REGISTERED VOTER in the state.

    On the other hand, it looks like the Radical Republicans are making good on their promise to create jobs – for lawyers with expertise in election law.

  11. Doug

    August 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    kdog,
    They should have no problem voting as long as they are more time in that address than in their address elsewhere. The same types of standards are followed in many situations such as tax residency….why do you think Florida has so many 7 month residents for example. If these retirees are there most of the time then they should be good…you guys are getting a bit hysterical with your conspiracy theories.

  12. Abe

    August 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Doug,

    You would think those students at ECSU, ” should be good” due to the fact that more time is spent there. However, it is their residency that has been called into question, not retirees.

  13. LayintheSmakDown

    August 16, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Abe,
    kdog was refrencing retirees..try to keep up. But the same applies to students. Are they more time in the exact address? If so then go get a driver’s license and set up to be a resident. The fact in this case is that they are essentially evicted from the dorms for 4 months of the year then have to get another address…then get another address when they get a different room at the dorm. These students need to do what has been done for many decades by students…just get an absentee and vote in the town that you actually come from.

  14. […] disenfranchisement of Elizabeth City State University student Montravias King, which is setting a precedent for the disenfranchisement of thousands of HBCU and other students […]

  15. Abe

    August 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Layinthesmackdown,

    I’m keeping up just fine. Thanks so much for your concern. I feel those who are having difficulty comprehending the law which CLEARLY states that a) students may vote where they attend school ( yes, dorm dwellers as well) and b) the qualifications for running for council and voting are the same need some sort of read- along program of ° gasp° THE LAW.

  16. Crissa

    August 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Re Doug, LayintheSmakDown: You realize that your commentary flies in the face of a Supreme Court Decision? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symm_v._United_States

    You cannot claim that someone is not a permanent resident merely because their home is variable – to do so would in fact take the vote away from students, migrant workers, homeless, and anyone else living in a temporary status in their resident town. Such as people who’ve temporarily lost a home due to accident or even construction or those who live in leased housing – like teachers, students, faculty and other live-in situations like camps or house sitters.

    In other words, these guys are denying that he’s been there – and in fact, according to his affidavit, he’s actually remained on campus year-round. His address has not changed, remaining at the PO Box at the school.

    So not only are they in the wrong, they’re doubly wrong given the facts in specific.

  17. […] site and Election Day precinct on that campus. And the board near Elizabeth City State University barred a student from running for city council, saying the senior’s on-campus address did not make him a […]

  18. Nathanael

    August 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Spectacularly illegal behavior by the county board. Has someone actually mailed them a copy of Symm v. US and Lloyd v. Babb?