On Tuesday September 3, 2013 Montravias King, represented by Southern Coalition for Social Justice staff attorney Clare Barnett, won the right to run for city council in Elizabeth City NC. King was initially barred from running by the Pasquotank County Board of Elections due to his on-campus residence at Elizabeth City State University. The original challenge to King’s eligibility as a candidate was brought by Richard Gilbert, the local Republican Party chair. Montravias King has lived on campus since he started at ECSU in 2009 and has spent most summers living there. He has voted in Pasquotank County for four years using his campus address. His victory was hailed on the September 3, 2013 episode of The Rachel Maddow Show.
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“Students have a fundamental right to vote in their college community using their dormitory addresses. Because the residency requirements are the same for voters as for candidates, the challenge to Montravias’ candidacy based on the fact that he lives in a dormitory affects all college students across the state,” said King’s attorney, SCSJ staff attorney Clare Barnett. “They didn’t have any legal precedent to say that a dormitory can’t be a permanent address,” Barnett said. “The NC Supreme Court ruled decades ago that a college dormitory is a valid address for voting. Since the statutory requirements for running for office and voting are the same, a college dormitory is also a valid address for running for office.”
- Until events in Pasquotank County, it was settled law in North Carolina that students could vote where they go to school, specifically including a dorm, as long as they do not intend to return to their parents’ home to live after graduation. This has been affirmed in two North Carolina Supreme Court cases, the 1979 Lloyd v. Babb case and the 1972 case of Hall v. Wake County, both of which found that a college dormitory meets the requirements for residency for voting purposes. In the 1980s, the North Carolina General Assembly incorporated these rulings into statutory law. Allowing students living in campus dormitories to run for elected office also appeared to be settled after Derwin Montgomery, a Winston-Salem State University student residing in a dormitory, was elected to the Winston-Salem city council in 2009.
Now that the appeal has concluded, Mr. King is ready to focus on his studies and the city council race. If elected, King will be the area’s first college student on the city council. “The benefit is two-fold,” King said. “It helps the students in having a voice on the council, and I believe it helps the residents of the city because the high schoolers and youth say, ‘Hey, we have someone that sort of looks like us. Someone that is youthful, energetic and ready to fight.’”
This is not the first time that Gilbert has sought to prevent a person of color from participating in the political process. Gilbert previously challenged the right of then-incumbent Kirk Rivers from serving on the Elizabeth City Council on residency grounds. Rivers, an African-American, successfully defended his right to remain on the City Council by taking his case to Superior Court.
The State Board of Elections hearing may be viewed in its entirety below: