Yesterday a senior at Winston-Salem State, Derwin Montgomery, more or less won a seat on the City Council by defeating four term incumbent Joycelyn Johnson 57-24 in the Democratic primary.
He did it by taking full advantage of same day registration and one stop voting. Yes Weekly reports that 213 of his classmates registered and voted at the same time and overall Montgomery estimates that more than 400 WSSU students voted.
The results speak for themselves. Montgomery actually trailed Johnson 194-90 in votes cast on election day. But he had already banked a 440-28 lead in early voting that proved to be quite insurmountable.
There are a lot of reasons this example isn't easily replicable elsewhere. Winston-Salem's district voting for City Council elections with all of the students concentrated in one district for instance is somewhat unusual, and few elections have turnout this low from so called 'permanent voters.' And Montgomery has to have been a pretty special and unusually well organized candidate to get his peers out like that- frequently fewer than 400 out of UNC-Chapel Hill's 25k+ student body participate in municipal elections.
Nevertheless it's an amazing indication of the clout college students can have if they decide to, particularly in low turnout elections. Will we see one or more elected to the legislature by turning out students disproportionately in what is likely to be a relatively low interest primary next spring?
One thing's for sure- Anthony Foxx should figure out what he can do to replicate this in Charlotte for the general election because a couple thousand votes from the city's colleges could well be the difference maker in what seems likely to be a very close contest.