HBCU Student Wins Important Voting Rights Battle in North Carolina

Board of Elections rules that Montravias King can run for local office from his dormitory address.

Posted: 09/04/2013 12:23 PM EDT

Montravias King, a senior at Elizabeth City State University, scored a major victory with the North Carolina State Board of Elections on Tuesday.

Richard Gilbert, a local Republican chairman, had challenged King's eligibility to run for a Pasquotank County seat, arguing that living in a college dormitory was a disqualifier because it is only a temporary address.

King has lived in campus housing since 2009, and also has been enrolled in some summer sessions. It also is the address he has used to vote in local, statewide and national elections.

The Pasquotank County elections board agreed with Gilbert, who planned to challenge other students using their school addresses to establish residency to vote, leading King to appeal the decision. After Tuesday's hearing, attended by students and voting rights advocates, the state Board of Elections sided with the HBCU student, voting unanimously that he can run for local office.

“Students have a fundamental right to vote in their college community using their dormitory addresses,” said Clare Barnett, an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice who represented King, in a statement. “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.”

North Carolina has made national headlines lately for efforts that opponents say will make it more difficult for certain voters, primarily Democrats, to cast ballots. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently criticized the state's new voter ID law, which he said will make the Republican Party even less appealing to African-American voters.

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(Photo: Courtesy of Montravias King)

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